March came in like a lion and went out like a mofo.
Why I decided to do this challenge:
I hate my work email. So much stuff comes in at once. So, so, SO much whingeing from students who want exceptions to the rules (No.) or who want explanations of why things can’t go the way they want (1. because I have pedagogical reasons; 2. because I said so). My work email frustrates me, overwhelms me, makes me sad. My personal email is fine! I love personal email.
But my email inbox at work is full of university-wide spam about stupid events (instantly deleted); stupid shit from textbook publishers (easily deleted); requests from students (which I answer because I need good evals, but I use canned auto-responses); questions, comments, concerns, and suggestions from my RAs and TAs (which I need to act on or consider and use to change things in the future); conversations about college-level committee work (skimmed and filed to be read never again); conversations from my immediate department colleagues about department-level work (often requires a bunch of work; argh!); random crap from random people having little to do with me (again, deleted); emails from colleagues about collaborative projects (labeled and kept so I can do the work we’re talking about); requests to review articles (either declined immediately and deleted, or kept until I review the article so I know where to send my review); emails from colleagues trying to set up meeting times (I don’t have an office phone or I could call); requests for letters of recommendation (labeled and kept until letter is written, then archived); questions and comments from the IRB (responded to and then filed); tons of error messages and other administrative messages from the 7 listservs I manage (easily classified and mostly deleted); questions about the internships I manage (usually require thought or explanation); and a bunch of other stuff.
… are you tired yet? I am. I wanted to make this stuff GO AWAY by trying out inbox zero and by keeping on top of incoming mail so that I wasn’t stuck writing emails like “Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.”
Some of this is probably exacerbated by my own unwillingness to confront annoying students in person — I hate having to deal with the ones who whine, bluster, threaten, yell, etc. — so I prefer to do it over email.
How I decided to attack it:
I decided it would be cheating to automatically remove every email from my inbox by just sticking it in a folder but not dealing with it. That wouldn’t solve the problem of the email still needing to be dealt with.
As you can see on our Monthly Challenges page, I decided I would:
- start the month by throwing everything in the inbox into a “to do NOW” folder
- continue to keep the inbox empty each day, while progressively emptying the to do folder, with the goal of having it totally empty by the end of the month. I will therefore have gotten a lot of tasks done that come to me by email!
Update, day 2: I may have to ditch this goal. It is so overwhelming. I’ll try to hang in there a bit longer. At least I have reduced my amount of pending email, which is progress.
Update, day 8: Halp! Too much email!
Update, day 16: Some progress, but also lots of new mail. Lots and lots. Like, I mean, a LOT.
Update, day 28: Epic fail.
Am I better off for having done it?
Well, no, I don’t think so. I did learn some things. For example, this doesn’t seem to be possible when I get 25 emails in 14 hours and each one requires me to do something or think something or write something or investigate something… can’t keep up.
I did get a lot of things done, and I did make a dent in my overall email. But I don’t think it’s going to have any lasting effect.
What I learned:
KILL ME NOW. Wait, no. But still. Not this. Not ever again. Unless it’s summer. Maybe not even then.
Give up. There is no hope. I can *either* do inbox zero, *or* I can do my job. Not both.