Saturday, January 7, 2012

Email Deluge

If email is not a problem for you, I would not bother to read on. Go spend your fruitful time elsewhere.

It is annual report/performance review time at my job. I am looking back and completing a rough accounting of all the things I accomplished (or not) last year. Where did all that time and energy go? Out of morbid curiosity, I did some very rough calculations on the amount of time I spent on work related email. I am horrified by the results.

8,500 received

3,200 sent

(These numbers are rounded down by 5% for possible error or duplication and comprise work related email only. This is not a scientific analysis nor pretends to be.)

OK, so we’ll look at an extremely rough calculation on this:
Let’s say I spent an average of 5 minutes writing each of these 3,200 emails. (Obviously, some took seconds and some I slaved over, but 5 minutes is probably a reasonable average.) That equals about 267 hours or 6.75 forty-hour work-weeks of responding to work related emails. (This figure does not include reading the ones received - I work in academia - academics are not known for their brevity.)

The numbers are ugly. I am unable to bring myself to scrutinize this further in order to estimate the real time involved in all aspects of this communication. This is not the way I want to spend my life or my work. This is not the way I want the people I work with to spend their time. It is time for me to step away from the machine(s). My machine driven life is out of control. I am complicit. I am addicted. This is NOT how I want to spend the second half of my life.

So, here’s my resolution for 2012: to live in my body – to detach from the machine (as much as possible within the confines of my career requirements.) It doesn’t help that my livelihood depends on the machine, BUT how much work can I do without it? How much time can I spend without it? How many of these emails actually require a response? How many emails are truly critical for me to send? How can I build borders and boundaries around the reading and response to email?

I’m not looking for “Inbox Zero” or to be more efficient with email communication – I’m striving for less – less reading, less writing, less processing. Just less. Much less. The goal is more flesh presence (I like being in the room with you); more creative work; more book reading; more writing; more time in real life, in the real world, in real dimensions. Yes, I’ve read all the articles on email management and I was GTD long before it was the hip-geek thing to be (I took my first workshop with David Allen when I was 25 – and that was 25 years ago.) No, this about email abstinence, detox and mindfulness. This is not about being more organized. It is about leveling up the mind, body and spirit. This is about no longer participating in the insanity.

In an effort to conserve my time and energy and my colleague’s time and energy, I hereby vow to respond to fewer emails, to send fewer emails and to proselytize to the congregation until every damn one of you is converted. So, when you see me next week and ask me if I received your email, the answer is “yes.” I just didn’t think it was worth my time or yours to respond.

1 comment:

jo said...

So, my slackerness is your 2012? Maybe I should give lessons?