Thursday, April 06, 2006


Dangerous milestone revisited -- dangerous two-milestone

When I was new in academia -- back in the day, when my email inbox only rarely crept up over 100 -- I remember hearing about an admired colleague whose inbox topped 2,000 and thinking "what a character!"

I've written a couple of previous posts about getting close to the "disturbing milestone" of 1,000 emails in my in box.

I'm quite nostalgic about that time, as the "what a character" ultra-disturbing milestone of 2,000 now draws into view. Today, I reached 1,689 emails in the inbox, with 414 unread.

Now before you go and get all critical on me, let's consider some of those unread emails. Today, a colleague sent an email to our faculty list serve. The subject line? "Trivia."

That's right, "Trivia." Two other colleagues picked up the thread, so their subject lines read: "Re: Trivia."

Imagine you are having an extremely busy day, and are trying to stay as focused as you can, despite your neurotic tendency to check the email inbox about 4 times per hour. Are you going to open the email titled "Trivia" and the two titled "Re: Trivia"?

It's easy to say that I should just delete the "Trivia" emails without reading them. But maybe I'll have time in a day or a week or two to read them. My colleagues are not folks who have nothing better to do than waste my time -- the "Trivia" email is probably at least mildy interesting or amusing.

It's like getting an email titled: "This is not terribly important, but I thought it was worth telling you about." Indeed, I get lots of email with that title -- okay, not literally that title, but if emails had a "subject subtext" line, that's what you'd find on the subtext line of many emails I get.

In fact, there are about 414 of those in my inbox right now.

well, at least my trivial emails have a very high humor quotient. :P

khjubdrp (kah-JUB-drop): an expression of utter astonishment at winning first prize in verifictionary.
So that's why you never respond to my e-mails about cheaper inkjet cartridges and Viagra.

hwmgt (HOW-im-get): a term Southerners like me use to describe a plan to acquire something.
I've had occasion to think this before, but some of the stuff that goes over your faculty listserv suggests that some of your colleagues are underemployed.

Despite some efforts earlier in the year to reduce its size, my work inbox presently contains 4427 items. I think it will take nuclear demolition munitions to clear it out.
perfect timing, as my day is devoted entirely to sorting, pruning, responding and filing for my emails, which also reached a milestone figure. am in desperate straits, as cannot set up travel reservations without being sure of all the things i agreed to do, and when/where they are. sigh. makes the old days of quill pens and infrequent correspondence seem quite lovely, doesn't it?


uawfuel -- what would jesus use to fill his tank?
You really should check out the "Inbox Zero" series at ( I've been following their advice. I get 30-40 messages per day (not including mailing lists, etc.). I have 3 messages in my Inbox now and over the last week, peaked at 8.
I average about 30 e-mails a day during the semester, not including those that are automatically shunted (that's for Tom) to the spam folder. On a good day, I delete about 10 of the 30; the rest just sit in my in-box, usually read and occasionally answered, but not deleted or transferred. This strategy, coupled with an unfortunate tendency of our university's mail server to burp duplicate e-mails into our boxes en mass, has allowed me to accumulate 12,486 e-mails in my in-box alone.

When I had to fill out a form describing what I intended to do whilst on leave next year, I seriously contemplated writing down "clean out e-mail in-box", but then I realized that even I am able to accomplish a net LOSS of 10 e-mails per day, I would need a leave of approximately 3.42 years in order to meet my goal. Far more realistic, I think, to promise two books and four journal articles.
Thanks, everybody. Especially Kim. Boy, do I feel better!
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