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Inbox zero, revisited, stage three

Topics/tags: Email

As you may recall, this summer I’ve decided to return to my Sisyphean question for the legendary inbox zero. I took the easy way out to get started; rather than going through the too-many messages in my inbox, I declared inbox bankruptcy and just shoved them into a holding place [1]. It’s now been about a week and a half since that declaration of bankruptcy. In that time, I’ve tried my best to keep up. I’ve also unsubscribed from a bunch of mailing lists [2]. But the mail keeps piling up, particularly since my days were filled with code camp and not a log of time to read email.

Where do I stand? On Saturday, I had about 600 messages, about 400 of which were unread. That seemed like a good afternoon’s work. It’s also seemed like an opportunity to unsubscribe from even more stuff. I recall making progress on Saturday, but not enough. And I spent Sunday working on other things.

So, here it is 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening. I have about 750 messages in my inbox, 475 of which are unread. Let’s see how long it takes me to get through them, or at least what progress I can make.

It’s Prime Day. There are a bunch of messages from Amazon and other folks trying to convince me to buy stuff. I can throw most of it away.

There are the messages that take some time to handle. For example, I have a stack of postings to SIGCSE-members that I need to reject because they quote too much from the previous message [5]. That means that I need to compose a message to each sender explaining the situation. While I’m tempted to reject all such messages as a matter of principle, that seems unfriendly. I suppose I could just give up on moderating them, but that seems to be in violation of the spirit of my responsibilities. So I compose messages instead. And there are a variety of other SIGCSE-members tasks: checking on bounced email, adding a new member or two, etc.

There are also a bunch of other tasks that have piled up in the inbox. I need to move them to my to-do list inbox or get them done. The ones that take less than five minutes, I’m just trying to do [6]. What about the rest? Letter of support for a student. That goes on the to-do list. A long article to read. On the to-do list. Info about the SHOT [6] conference in St. Louis. Hmmm … I’m on leave this fall. I could attend. Should I? On the to-do list to think about when I have time. Need a list of campers for the next camp. Yup, on the to-do list [7].

I’m also trying to make things easier for myself. So I unsubscribed from a bunch of lists today or on Saturday. Kayak. I’m not sure why I ended up on their list. Some random democratic candidate from out of state. I appear to have gotten on a list of people from out of state who will donate that gets passed around between candidates. Carnival Cruises. I’m not taking a cruise for at least another year. I can go back on their mailing list some other time. InfoQ Newsletter. I’m not sure what it is or why I get it. Noble Knight Games. Didn’t I unsubscribe already? I think there are a few others I forgot to record.

The worst of the bunch was eCampus. After unsubscribing, I think of them more as spammer than news service. I clicked unsubscribe on one message. It said You’ve unsubscribed from advertisements from this vendor. I then had to go to a separate Web site and click on each of the ten-or-so lists that they have (Reinventing Higher Education, eCampus News Today, Special Offers from eCampus News, Special Offers from Campus Technology Vendors, eSchool News Today, eSchool News IT School Leadership, Special Offers from eSchool News, Special Offers from School Technology Vendors, eClassroom News). That’s annoying, particularly given that I wasn’t subscribed to most of those already. And then theunsubscribe" link timed out. I wrote to instead.

Okay, it’s now 7:45 p.m. I’ve spent one-and-three-quarters hours on my inbox [8]. Where do I stand? I got through most of the email from today and yesterday and some of the email from Sunday [10]. I’m down to 440 messages, 261 of which are unread. Let’s see … I dealt with about 300 email messages in slightly under two hours. That’s not too bad. But I was brutal with them and I filed a lot of tasks. I’ll need to find time to do those tasks. And I know that I have some more serious tasks in the remaining messages. I’ll shoot for processing another 100 messages [11] tomorrow. And I’ll report back in a few days.

[1] Of course, technology never works the way it should, so I had some complications in moving the mail to another mailbox.

[2] I was telling my family that I had unsubscribed from at least three sets of game advertisements. Middle son asked, Why do you even get three different sets of game advertisements? But I order games from a variety of different places [3] and each seems to add me to their mailing list when I order [4].

[3] I’m not sure that I can put together a complete list. I think FunAgain is the place I ordered from first; they were one of the first online game stores. Noble Knight Games is a good source for out-of-print games. Miniature Market has some good sales, as does CoolStuffInc. BoardGamePrices provides a good search engine for the best price on games. There’s a Canadian store I’ve ordered from once or twice. I’m not sure how I ended up on Troll and Toad’s mailing list; their focus seems to be Magic and Yugioh cards. And I know that there are others. Yeah, I’m definitely an addict. But I’ve unsubscribed from most of them.

[4] Note: I have enough games. I am trying not to order more. But I do like to hear about new games.

[5] Our digest subscribers don’t like to see the same text repeated again and again and again.

[6] Nope, it’s not worth the time to log what they are.

[7] I should put make the list of campers on the to-do list for tonight.

[8] More accurately, I’ve spent about one-and-a-half hours on the inbox and about fifteen minutes musing [9].

[9] No, I don’t really write that fast. But I had written some parts of this musing on Saturday afternoon. And I wrote other parts of this musing after the 1:45 had passed.

[10] I suppose my inability to get through all of my email from today and yesterday speaks to why I find inbox-zero so difficult to achieve. But I left around a few things that were harder to mentally process.

[11] Plus any new ones that arrive.

Version 1.0 of 2018-07-17.