Skip to main content

Inbox zero, revisited, stage four

Topics/tags: Email, rambly, disjoint

When I left off on my Sisyphean task to stay at inbox zero, I had 440 messages left in my inbox, 261 of which were unread. Upon reading that, Michelle said something like, Having 261 unread messages in my inbox would make me feel overwhelmed. If I recall correctly, I replied, Yup, I feel both overwhelmed and anxious about my inbox. I didn’t say, It’s worse now that I’ve unsubscribed to a lot of email lists because I know most of it is email that actually needs real consideration. Perhaps I should have.

I’m finding it amazingly hard to keep up with my email in real time. Even trying to keep up with the mail, by noon on Thursday [1], I was up to 510 messages, 305 of which were unread. By Saturday night at 6:30 p.m., I had about 600 messages in my inbox, 336 of which were unread. I should probably just set aside enough time a day to look at it. Keeping up with the email has negatively affected my other work [2]. I should also consider turning it off when I want to do other work.

I can make things a bit better by unsubscribing from more lists. Let’s see. New England Mobile Book Fair. I worked there in high school. I have fond memories. But, well, it’s no longer owned by the same people and, given how infrequently I make it out east, I’m unlikely to visit. Paperworks. I don’t get much mail from them, but I’m trying to be thorough. Berklee Performance Center. I’m not quite sure why I’m on their mailing list. It’s another infrequent one. The Oxford American. It’s something that’s interesting, but I don’t have enough time to read it. Cardhaus Games. Another in a long line of game subscriptions. I thought I’d unsubscribed already. Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art. I don’t visit the area as much as I used to. I don’t need their newsletter. American Airlines. I’m an AAdvantage member. I just wanted my monthly summary, but I’m getting a lot more. My first attempt to unsubscribe required a password. But my second try seems to have succeeded.

So, what else did I deal with along the way? Some email that’s easy to delete, such as the daily email from ITS that it’s almost time to reset my password [3]. There were some messages that required a few minutes to think about or react to.

But there were also a lot of real tasks to consider. Here are some that I considered during the week. A request to review volunteer management software in my role as one of the coordinators of SIGCSE volunteers. That’s something to add to my to-do list. I also sent a note to my co-coordinators telling them that I would get to it as soon as I could. Some issues relating to policies on SIGCSE-members. That was smaller and something that seemed more urgent. I sent some notes to the SIGCSE board. A message on the Racket mailing list about a cool approach to board game playing with PLT Redex. That seems worth understanding more about. Add to my to-do list [4]. ACM news about new Code of Ethics. That’s something I need to read and think about it. Add to my to-do list. A request from a colleague to consult on a programming project.* I sent them a quick response to ask them to wait until after the next code camp. Of course, that resulted in a bunch of back-and-forth messages. I also ended up doing a little looking into the issue they raised. Belated administrivia from my fall fellowship. Did I mention that I knew these were outstanding? Anyway, I felt guilty about the delay, so I responded to five or so different messages [5]. Some of the messages made me wonder whether I’ll fit in; it’s clearly a place for humanists. A request from alum to come back to campus and recruit. Yeah, that’s relatively urgent. I dug up a bit of information and sent a few followup messages. And that’s all from just trying to keep up [8] during the week.

What about Saturday night, when I decided to try to make more progress through the messages? Let’s see … A quick introduction to GitOps. Yeah, another thing on the to read list. A message from a friend who is visiting in early August. That’s something I need to reply to now. An article about rsync. I don’t really need to read it, but I should remember it for reference. I need a better reference manager. A question from a student about conference funding. Reply with suggestions that they check out the professional development fund from CLS. A note from the MIT press about book proposals. Add to the to-do list under things to think about in a few weeks. _A link to an article about the Senate putting forth a bill that treats program code as a foreign language. That falls into things I need to muse about immediately [9]. Some notes from Student Affairs. Those I need to handle immediately.

Finally, there were a few fun things, too. The Audities Digest included a note on the origins of Shocking Blue’s Venus and a corresponding link to a YouTube video. I put listen to that on my things to do at the end of the night. The riff and the phrasing are clearly stolen. But the lyrics to Venus are new. I’m not sure where that puts things. Back then, it was most likely considered okay to borrow a riff [10]. These days, in which one second of a bass lick appears to be protected by IP, probably not.

Where do I stand after an hour or so working on the mailbox, which is all that I’m up to this evening? 436 messages, of which 247 are unread. In some sense, that’s good progress. I got through about 1/4 of the messages. And I added a bunch to my to do list.

Yeah, Michelle is right: Dealing with the outstanding messages is utterly overwhelming. Sometimes, I’m not sure how I ever get anything significant done. And it’s summer, when things are supposed to be lighter. What happens in the fall? At least this fall I’ll be on my fellowship.

My next goal: Finish cleaning out the mailbox on Sunday. Or perhaps I should deal with some of the outstanding tasks I just added. And, well, there’s more preparation for the Code Camp left to do [11]. We shall see what I can actually do.

[1] Noon Thursday was a day and a half after I had reached 440/261.

[2] I suppose that I could say that my other work has negatively affected my email reading, but that’s getting things backwards.

[3] There’s some pretty good evidence that forcing people to reset their passwords every six months provides less added security because it means that they have to write down their passwords somewhere. Or at least I recall reading that somewhere; I’m not sure where.

[4] Or at least my to-read list.

[5] Let’s see … an invitation to lunch with a question about allergies, a question about what kind of computer I need, a request for a W9 form [6], a request for information to get me a Herkey card [7], and a request for a signed acceptance letter. It feels like I missed something.

[6] It’s okay to send my SSN over email, right?

[7] They probably don’t call it a Herkey card.

[8] And, perhaps, to cut down some of the past messages.

[9] I considered moving this musing another day into the future. Instead, after writing a draft of that musing, I pushed the final version to when I have less time to muse, which is likely some night of code camp.

[10] If borrowing a lick is not okay, Bo Diddly should be owed a significant amount of money.

[11] I spent somewhere between five and six hours on the code camp today, which is a Saturday. I’m glad to know that next week is the last of this summer’s code camps.

Version 1.0 of 2018-07-21.