You are not your Inbox

How did we end up here? Now there are whole books written about managing your E-mail, and Jeffrey Sazlow of the Wall Street Journal in Big Brother mode is telling us that the way we manage the inbox marks us as possibly the result of bad parenting if we treat it like our adolescent untidy bedroom. But if we clean it out we just might be totally anal retentive. We can’t win.

He goes on to say that E-Mail addiiction is a cultural given. Let’s stop that kind of talk – now. As I say in my book, its quantity and our response to it puts other people in charge of our lives. Though I talk in the book about subfolders and filing, here is one area where we can really start cracking down. Until recently, even though I recommend reading mail on your server if it is not pre-filtered in your office, I still plowed through all the penis enlargement and hot stock tip spam quickly just to be sure that something legitimate wasn’t lurking under all that piffle. It wasn’t. So since my server allows automatic deletion of spam, I bravely followed through. It adds about 20 minutes to my day to do something worthwhile – and I haven’t missed a thing.

But even legitimate mail can waste our time. If I have entered an appointment into my calendar, why am I also keeping the notice that prompted me to set it up in the first place. But the real spam may not be in the message you receive. It might be the message you send. It cuts both ways. Before we broadcast to the world we might want to think about whether our missive becomes part of the 1,000 E-Mails that are dragging down other people’s inboxes.

“Because inboxes are metaphors for our lives …..” says one psychologist in my morning paper. Uh uh. Life has more meaning and purpose than that. Let’s look for it better places.