The Agony of Email
One of the teams I manage at work sends emails. That's all they do. They're to people who've requested email from us or people who have conducted a financial transaction with us and provided their email address as a required part of the transaction. So I go to conferences and I talk to a lot of people. We talk about the need for email to be engaging, ongoing. That people are starting to treat brands like they do people - liking them on Facebook, following them, participating in their lives, criticizing bad haircuts (well, bad logo changes, that is). It is all rather interesting, especially as we decry that email isn't dead. Social media hasn't killed email and that it's a viable channel for commerce and fundraising. It must be. But for me personally, I'm burned out on personal email.
At work, I get several hundred emails a day. I can spend three solid hours doing email and actually lose ground. Fortunately, this isn't consistently, but many days it is. And at my level of middle-management, I'm not at the point where I can let emails sit unanswered for weeks and months. Well, some I can, like stuff I've been forwarded as recommended reading or something. But most emails do need me to respond rather quickly. Occasionally, I can read an email and know that if I wait, someone on one of my teams will respond on my behalf, which is nice. But a lot of times, it's my input or decision that's required.
There is a culture at work that email is at the speed of light. You can respond to email and then get a respose to that response within minutes. But maybe that's too quick. I've recently taken the tactic of a forced delay when responding. I'll sit down and plan to spend a solid hour replying to email. It will be a combination of email that's already in my inbox as well as anything new as soon as it arrives. However, I don't send my responses. Instead, I save all my responses as drafts. When I'm done and ready to step away from the computer for a meeting, then I'll send them all. It's still a decently rapid respond, but it's not instantanous and I'm not sure it needs to be because that can be vicious. And it's not like there's a real problem when I do step away for a meeting and someone emails me. So there can't really be a reasonable expectation of instantanous response.
Plus, on top of email, there's Skype and text messaging which could be considered more instantaneous. (Though if someone Skypes me with something that really ought to be an email, then I take it and put it into an email and email it to me and them.)
So today I sat down and plowed through my home email. I used the iPad (because it has the best interface for reading email) and the laptop (because the mail interface and the iOS experience has a lot of gaps - doesn't allow for filing; no way to reporting spam; harder to attach an email to a Remember the Milk task; some websites make it difficult or impossible to unsubscribe from a mobile device). As I went, I documented each one (just for me, I doubt anyone would read what's below).
I also employed my 6-year-old as my assistant. She performed the task of deleting each email. She enjoyed the swiping motion on the iPad for deleting.
So yeah, I've come to the conclusion that having immediate access to my email has actually made it less valuable. Now (if I have the sound/buzzer turned on), I'm alerted to every email. This is too immediate. If I only looked at my home email every 1-2 days, that would probably be sufficient. And that I'd be more likely to act on the emails I received because it would be an intentional act of checking email, not just a quick look because it was there. That if anyone needed me more urgently, they should use text messaging or IM. So to that end, I'm removing my personal email account from my iPhone. I can get the Gmail app or use the web interface.
So here's what I deleted today. This is more for me for future reference, I doubt anyone will care about the rest of this.
#1 Newsletter I No Longer Want - Unsubscribe takes me to a page-not-found. Great. They want me to tell them about the error. That requires submitting a helpdesk ticket to them. Ok, ticket submitted. Switch over to PC to click on the unsubscribe link. Requires me to sign-in. (Uh-oh... that's a violation of CAN-SPAM. Naughy, naughty. And this is a Christian organization.) UNSUBSCRIBE SUCCESSFUL. EMAIL DELETED.
#2 - Verify the helpdesk ticket I just submitted - But. I. Don't. Want. Email. From. You. Ugh.. fine... email address verified and they want me to establish a password. Does this mean I now have an account on their helpdesk system? Great. EMAIL DELETED.
#3 - My helpdesk ticket has been submitted and my email address verified. - Kill me. Kill me now. EMAIL DELETED
#4 - A reminder to myself - Moved to Remember the Milk. EMAIL DELETED
#5 - An email from a co-worker - That shouldn't be there. Oh, right... the iPad and iPhone make it very easy to send from the wrong account, which I do regularly. Email responded to (fixing the from) and then EMAIL DELETED.
#6 - 18 - Small Group - A discussion that started early in the week with plans for the Friday night small group meal. By Friday a bunch of conflicts had come up and small group was ultimately canceled. 13 EMAILS DELETED
#19 - Announcement from a Facebook game. If I see too many more as I work through my inbox today, I might unsubscribe. EMAIL DELETED.
#20 - Redbox. I signed up, but I've never rented a movie. (My wife has.) I'll leave it for now. EMAIL DELETED.
#21 - Something my friend saw on the internet. Huh. Ok. EMAIL DELETED.
#22 - Notification that my credit card statement is ready. That's nice. And useless. EMAIL DELETED.
#23 - Newsletter from a website whose RSS feed I follow. Why are they emailing me? I wonder if I entered a contest or something. Their opt-out survey is broken. Took me several tries to get it to recognize my choice. UNSUBSCRIBED and EMAIL DELETED.
Two emails of family stuff. I don't have the mental capacity right now to deal with them. They have to stay.
#24 - Seminar notification from GIST. I don't want seminar notifications. It's also messed up on the iPad - the date and time is in white text on white. The email is way too long and boring. I'm worried that if I unsubscribe, it will unsubscribe me from all GIST emails. Oh, well. I' guess I'm willing to take that risk. UNSUBSCRIBED, Their opt-out survey won't submit. REPORTED SPAM/DELETED.
#25 - Notification from GIST that I'm now unsubscribed. DELETED.
#26 - Foursquare - I unlocked the Starbucks Tribute Badge. Woo. I'm so cool. Me and the rest of the planet. DELETED.
#27 - Foursquare - someone from college wants to be my friend. I approved this request through their app days ago. DELETED.
#28 - Foursquare - a pastor from a former church wants to be my friend. I approved this request through their app days ago. DELETED.
#29 - Notification of a new comment on my blogger blog. Spam, since if they had a modern browser they would have seen Disq.us instead. I'll go report spam on these on blogger later. DELETED.
#30 - A reminder of an event - added to my calendar. DELETED.
#31 - Something I want to read, but not right now. Over to the laptop... added to Remember the Milk and FILED.
#32 - An email I sent myself at work. No idea why there's a copy at home. DELETED.
#33 - Email from a mall with offers for families that are only good on weeknights. But because we have a family, it's hard to get to the mall on a weeknight. (Must be sent from corporate - the place where that mall is doesn't have any residential anywhere near it. It's all corporate or drive-to visits.) DELETED
#34 - Notification of a free book, but not until 3/16. Forwarded to work and added to my calendar there. DELETED
#35 - Newsletter from Booklending.com. Booklending.com is awesome. I have never used their service, but maybe someday I will. Receiving the newsletter will remind me to check it out one of these days. DELETED.
#36 - Newsletter from Amazon Web Services. Same deal. Have never used them. Maybe one of these days I will and continuing to get the newsletter will remind me. DELETED.
#37 - Newsletter from Hilton HHonors. Just reminds me that it's been too long since I've stayed in a hotel not for work. A chance to win a trip to Hawaii but I have to go find my Hhonors card. Also, registration page seems broken for iPad. Seems to be promoting some movie where there's a couple together but the guy is leering at some girl in a bathing suit instead. So... Hilton will send you to Hawaii where you can ogle people you're not with? Back to the laptop... Added to Remember the Milk and then FILED.
#38 - Facebook Pages update. Eh. DELETED.
#39 - Credit Card statement ready to view. Useless. DELETED.
#40 - Google Places update. Ok, that needs to get fixed. I'm still listed as the owner of the last church I attended/worked at. I've been asking them for years to create a new entry for the church so that I can remove this one. I hope they have but have neglected to tell me because today's the day I remove it from my Google account. Place removed from my account, newsletter(s) UNSUBSCRIBED and email DELETED.
#41 - Someone likes the note I posted on YouVersion. Yay. That probably is the antithesis of humility and perhaps at some point I should turn off these notifications. DELETED.
#42 - Confirmation of a newsletter signup. DELETED.
#43 - Something I want to read. Back to the laptop. Added to RTM and FILED.
#44 - Newsletter from Embassy Suites. Yeah, yeah, I need a vacation. DELETED.
#45 - Newsletter from Eye-Fi. I've mentioned before how awesome Eye-Fi is. Their newsletters seem to mostly want to sell you new stuff. So not really that relevant, but I'm sure I'll buy something new and cool from them at some point in the future, so I'll keep receiving their newsletter. DELETED.
#46 - Newsletter from Eye-Fi. Ooh, for shame. A double-send. A quick slide of the finger and DELETED.
#47 - Redbox. Yeah, yeah. DELETED.
#48 - Someone likes the note I posted on YouVersion. Yay. Of course, my notes are not my own work, just the sermon notes from church. So maybe I should just be glad that the sermons are able to be experienced by even more people by me posting my notes. DELETED.
#49 - Someone I've never heard of wants to connect with me on LinkedIn. Pretty sure I marked them as spam inside LinkedIn already. So email DELETED.
#50 - An old email from Lori with a piece of information I needed at the time but not now. DELETED.
#51 - Uh oh... my Flickr account needs to be renewed. Added to RTM and FILED.
#52 - A friend spamming me via their Personal Fundraising Page on some charity. DELETED.
Another family one to deal with. Left in inbox.
#53 - LinkedIn confirmation of a new connection. DELETED.
#54 - Another old email from Lori that I don't need anymore. DELETED.
#55 - A reminder to myself. Already taken care of. DELETED.
#56 - Reminder of a reading plan on YouVersion that I signed up for but then didn't start. DELETED.
#57 - Facebook - birthday reminders. Cool email, but they've all now passed. DELETED.
#58 - Facebook - a notifiction of a comment. Old news. DELETED.
#59 - Facebook - invitation to an event. Already accepted on Facebook. DELETED.
#60 - Disq.us - a new comment on my blog. Already approved. DELETED.
#61 - Best Buy - acknowledgement that my password has been changed. Now if they would just fix my name. They screwed it up and it takes way too much effort to get it fixed. They aren't too bright. DELETED.
#62 - Best Buy - the email to let me reset my password. Should have deleted it at the time. This is a good example of clutter that I don't pick up right away and becomes part of the overwhelming pile. DELETED.
#63 - AT&T Wireless - my bill is ready. Pointless, since they'll charge a credit card and the email itself doesn't contain any useful information. Perhaps I'm too trusting but if the charge is the same as it was last month, I have no reason to even bother. DELETED.
#64 - Sprint. The guy with the email address email@example.com (James Glover, a guy who's not too bright) has once again entered one of my email addresses into something he was signing up for. I wondered if I could sign-in and have the rebate sent to me instead like Phoebe did on Friends, but that would probably be illegal and fraudulent. Over to the laptop. MARKED AS SPAM.
#65 - A newsletter from Seth Godin - I need to read this. Added to RTM and then FILED.
#66 - Spam from "Flowers for Good" sent to the email address on one of my blogs. 5WPR - 5W Public Relations - is the worst PR firm ever. 5WPR.com is full of spammers. 5W PR is worthless. In fact, I'd even say 5W PR is evil. MARKED AS SPAM.
#67 - An email from Thoughtful promoting Mardi Gras. DELETED.
#68 - A notification of a new comment on a blog where I posted a comment. A guy (Andy Sernovitz) had a blog post that was really unlike him - it was misinformed and disappointingly wrong, so I had to post a response and I wanted to see if anyone else responded. A few people did, but not him. I don't need to hang on to this notification, though. DELETED.
#69 - A friend using LinkedIn to spam me about a conference they're hosting. DELETED.
#70 - Redbox. Yeah, yeah. DELETED.
#71 - My username and password from Inhabitat. I don't see a need to keep this... I'll just do a "forgot my password" if I ever need this again. This must have been when I got signed up for their newsletter (#23). I must have wanted to comment on a post or something. DELETED.
#72 - Subscription confirmation for Inhabitat. Aha. So I did sign up for it. But I don't really need it, since I read their RSS feed. DELETED.
#73 - Email from the department where I studied for my BA in college. Lots of links. Too much mental energy required. DELETED.
#74 - An email announcing that Seth Godin is going to spend a few hours on Twitter talking to people. That's already passed. DELETED.
#75 - An XFINITY email from Kabletown. I saw part of an XFINITY ad the other day. I think they're worse than the Comcastic ads. Really Comcast? Enter point of this email is to announce a name change to their useless "Rewards" program given to Triple Play customers. DELETED.
#76 - Email from Lori about small group two weeks ago. Yikes. DELETED.
#77 - Email to myself from work to try looking at a webpage from home to see if it looked the same as it did at work. Way old. DELETED.
#78 - Newsletter from Disney Rewards. Trying to get me to spend the very few Disney Dollars I've accumulated. Useless! DELETED.
#79 - Facebook - Comment on a status. DELETED.
#80 - Google Calendar - invitation. I guess I must have missed this. Accepted. Suspect that this will now cause a conflict, but I'll deal with that later if it comes up. Email DELETED.
#81 - Facebook - a new message from someone. So an email to tell me I have an email. So now two emails to deal with. DELETED.
#82 - Facebook - invitation to an event. I already responded in Facebook. DELETED.
#83 - Newsletter from a charity we give to. DELETED.
#84 - Someone likes my note on YouVersion. DELETED.
#85 - Email to myself with a link to add to my blog. Added to my Evernote list of links to add to my blog. DELETED.
#86 - Booklending.com newsletter. DELETED.
#87 - Someone likes my note on YouVersion. DELETED.
#88-90 - Photos I emailed to myself to put on my blog. Which I already did last week. DELETED.
#91 - Someone likes my note on YouVersion. DELETED.
#92 - Article from Seth Godin. READ, added to my blog links list, DELETED.
#93 - Someone likes my note on YouVersion. DELETED.
#93 - Embassy Suites. The allure of a quiet weekend away with just Lori. Would be nice. DELETED.
#94 - More unrelated garbage mailed to the address of one of my blogs. Margaret Chen at Group SJR is a spammer. Her phone number is 917.512.2116. I hate spammers. MARKED AS SPAM.
#95 - Email to myself. That was taken care of a long time ago. DELETED.
#96 - Hey look, Jaimee Steele, the Senior Director of Public Relations for Rhapsody is spamming me herself. Not even using some discount PR firm. What's worse, she's local with her 206 area code (206-390-6637). That must be why she decided to spam my blog, that the Seattle connection was enough. Sorry, Jaimee Steele, it's still spam. It's unwanted, unrequested and irrelevant. Oh, wait.. Rhapsody is Real Networks, isn't it? They never were that wise over there. I wonder if they're still trying to figure out how to respond to the YouTube threat to their RealPlayer Plus One Super product. REPORTED SPAM.
#97 - Confirmation from Amazon for a $1 Kindle purchase. DELETED.
#98 - Redbox. Sorry. DELETED.
#99 - Spam from someone on LinkedIn that I don't even know. Evil. I reported her a few weeks ago. DELETED. (The email itself is just a notification. Those should keep coming. Just in this case it was notifying me of someone trying to abuse the system and con people.)
#100-101 - Small group conversation from a few weeks ago. DELETED.
#102 - Facebook - Page Update and Reminder of Changes - yeah, way old news now. DELETED.
Interesting offer from Plaxo. Of course, I can't remember my password. Have requested a password reset and it's not yet come. So, onward.
#103 - Welcome from YouVersion to a short bible reading plan that I never started. (Well, I told it I wanted to start. I just didn't then do it.) DELETED.
Email asking me to serve on the Production Team at church next weekend. Checking calendar, I may have a conflict. Need to ask Lori. STARRED and left in inbox.
#104-105 - Reminder to pre-order a book (and a copy I forwarded to myself for some reason). Two weeks ago. Which I already did. DELETED.
Photo I sent myself to put on my blog but haven't yet. STARRED and left in inbox.
#106 - Seth Godin email to read and trailer to watch. Added to RTM and then FILED.
#107 - Booklending.com newsletter including a link to a contest to win a $75 Amazon Gift Certificate. Last day to enter 3/8. Darn it. DELETED.
#108 - Old newsletter email. DELETED.
Email from Lori out of our small group book, suggested tips to prepare for small group each week. Not sure what do to with it yet. STARRED and left in inbox.
#109 - A link to YouTube from Lori to see the few minutes of a TV episode that our KableTown DVR barf on. WATCHED and DELETED.
#110 - Notification from H&R Block that the IRS accepted our tax return. That was ages ago. We got our refund several weeks ago. (And a week ahead of schedule. Which normally, who can complain if the federal government gives you money sooner than they say they will, but it would have been useful information to have had.) DELETED.
#111 - Email reply from an insurance agency. I said I was interested in a quote if the entire thing could be handled by email. They said that was fine and asked me some questions. Since then, I've gotten inundated with postal mail from insurance companies. It's been so annoying that I decided intertia is fine - I'll just keep the insurance companies we already have. DELETED.
Five emails trying to untangle the mess that Google has made of things with my personal domain and Blogger, Feedburner, Analytics and AdSense. Need to just leave them where they are for now. Maybe later put them in RTM and file them, but for now, seems best to just leave them there.
#112 - Email from American Express saying that if we use the card to buy 5 songs on iTunes, they'll refund the purchase. An attempt to get future purchases to be charged to our American Express card? Nah, that's only for Costco and nothing else. Easier that way. DELETED.
#113 - Facebook - Pages Update and Announcement - a month old and way way old news. DELETED.
#114-116 - Discussion with a work colleague about a presentation. We still haven't presented, but the powerpoint is mostly done, so this is old news. DELETED.
#117 - LinkedIn - neat presentation of everyone who changed jobs in the last year. DELETED.
#118 - An email I mailed from Google Reader about a tool for making mobile apps. FORWARDED to work and DELETED.
#119 - Funny comic a friend sent. VIEWED, REPLIED and DELETED. (Woo hoo - only took me a month!)
#120 - Funny webpage Lori sent me. Looked at it when she sent it. Should have deleted it then. DELETED.
Customer service email from The Great Indoors. Saved because I wanted to write a blog post about the great customer service from TGI. STARRED and left in the inbox.
#121 - Google Apps - new features. Thought there was one in here that I ought to read up on. No longer care. DELETED.
Google Analytics - following up on a helpdesk request. Did they solve? Don't know. Left in inbox with the other ones listed above between #111 and #112.
#122 - Happy Birthday email from Borders Books. Remember Borders Books? That was a great place to browse for books before you went home and ordered them much more cheaply on Amazon. Was offering me a free coffee if I came in. Too bad it expired a month ago. DELETED.
Another one from Google Analytics. Left in inbox.
So... 122 removed from inbox, most deleted. Looks like that represents 5 weeks of buildup as oldest email in inbox is now 01/30/11.
Now... onto the folders of stuff that's skipped the inbox. First, the financial folder. (This stuff would have also been forwarded on to Remember the Milk automatically.)
#123-125 - Notices on annual meeting/shareholder voting for three companies I own stock in
#126-130 - Email statements from my bank
Next, the forwarded folder... this is stuff that's already been forwarded elsewhere automatically (either to my work address or to Remember the Milk or to my cell phone as an SMS) Oh look - the missing Plaxo password request.
#131 - the plaxo email that I left in my inbox. DELETED
#132 - the plaxo password request email DELETED
#133-146 - new people who are following me on Twitter. I guess I better think of something profound. (I'll review these later on Remember the Milk.) DELETED
#147-157 - CNET Daily Newsletter - I have to have it sent to my home address and then forwarded to my work address - my work address kept bouncing it and causing me to get unsubscribed. They need to make this into an RSS feed. DELETED
#158-178 - MyPoints emails. They'll all already be in Remember the Milk as well. DELETED.
#179-189 - eRewards surveys. Waiting in RTM. DELETED.
#190-197 - Stuff from the city. In RTM. DELETED.
#198-202 - LinkedIn junk. DELETED.
#203-211 - Misc. junk. DELETED.
#212-218 - Another email newsletter forwarded to work. DELETED.
#219-222 - Wow... four things in the spam folder that were not spam. Google got it wrong. All READ and DELETED. (YouVersion and LinkedIn)
#223-239 - Stuff in my spam folder. Technically, 1 wasn't spam, it was from a bank I've abandonded. They can keep the 56 cents in the account. The rest was truly spam. DELETED.
Phew... that's a good stopping point for now.