Email Consumption Update

A few weeks ago, I said I’d cut down on my email, and that I was going on a low information diet. In reality I was already on the low information diet, and I was just reducing my intake even more to improve my internet business.

I know this is going to sound a little shocking to some, but for several years now I haven’t read a newspaper or watched the news. My reason for that is I just find it too damn depressing, and it distracts me from living my life. So I cut it out.

If the news is really important, then I’ve always figured that someone would tell me, or as happens more often nowadays, they ask my opinion.

When I had a job, that stance served me well as the office would be chattering about whatever the newsworthy item was about, and I’d ask a couple of questions, get some stares and a few dropped jaws because I didn’t know anything about it, and that would be it. I was updated.

Watching people walk away shaking their heads made me smile.

And before you say “yes but you could never hold an informed opinion about anything”, I say so what? The news as it is reported is made up. It’s someone else’s opinion of a second or third hand recollection of something that might or might not have happened the way they think it did.

History is the same. The ultimate winners always become the good guys and get to write history the way they want to.

Anyway, I always accept “news” with more than a pinch of salt because we’ll never know what really happened, just what was reported. Why hold an opinion when you don’t know all the facts, and why bother in the first place? Most (99.99% +) “news” doesn’t affect the day to day running of my life.

It’s just an idle entertainment.

So back to email…

As you might know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, I’ve cut down on email checking, and at one point got it down to three times a week, and even twice for a couple of weeks. The call was strong, but I resisted.

But because I’ve been doing a lot of communication with one of my developers (David) over a project or two we’re in various stages with, I found myself checking my email more and more, and soon I found myself checking one email account two or three times a day again. Grrr.

I don’t have to check my email for any support issues as I now use TicketDesk Pro for everything.

As an aside, I now find I can answer all my support questions once a day and it takes me 30 minutes. That’s because I have my own copy of TicketDesk Pro help desk fully loaded with Standard Responses, including pre-defined URLs. The answers to most questions are just a quick select and “add” away. (That’s a killer benefit of TicketDesk Pro.)

So the email problem has reared its head again, albeit on a smaller scale, and I stopped to have a think about it. I need that communication with business partners and staff, but I don’t want to be distracted by other things while I’m checking my email from those people I *want* to hear from.

Thirty seconds later I had my solution. A private forum. Perfect.

We can hold all discussions about various projects and issues in different threads. Everything is held together, no more searching through emails, and more importantly, no distractions. It should actually improve all our productivity. All I have to do is leave it open in my browser.

So at some time in the next couple of days I’ll set that up, probably on an existing SMF forum I have as I really like the way SMF works.

My email consumption should go back down to checking twice a week. Remember my goal is ONE hour per week to handle all email.

Yeah I know that sounds severe, but if you don’t have goals, you don’t have directions.

So what do you think? Could you achieve an hour a week to check email? What do you think of my forum idea? Do you know of a better solution?

-Frank Haywood


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6 Comments

  1. Frank,
    This sounds great. I need information control for my internet marketing business too.

    I’ll be awaiting the further deatils.
    Thanks

  2. Nancy Boyd says:

    Wow that sounds like an ambitious and worthy goal, Frank.

    I love the idea of a private forum for communications, but. . . how will you know there’s something in the forum that interests you unless you send an email about it? Catch 22??

    Man what I couldn’t do with all that time I’m currently using on email — most of it just sifting and culling until I find what I need and deleting the rest. I want to see what you did to achieve that goal!

    Thanks for challenging the rest of us by your example.

  3. Hi Frank,

    I would suggest that you have a *very private* special email account for ONLY selected people you absolutely MUST communicate with on a more regular basis.

    But… the forum is a great idea because people can share their ideas, learn from one another, get questions answered (which will also help others who may be too shy to ask them) and so forth.

    Looking forward to it! (I agree about newspapers and TV News being too depressing and I’m like you, when something really urgent happens, someone in the neighborhood will keep me informed) ;-) Saves a lot of unnecessary worry and grief, too.

    Have a great day!

    Donna

  4. Skip Hire says:

    Email is a real time consumer in my line of work too. First think I do in the morning and last thing t night is check the emails.

  5. Frank,
    I know this probably a bit simple but why not use your email software, (I use “thunderbird”), to separate your emails into different folders and give everyone you know a different “code” to put in the header of the emails they send you. Tell EVERYBODY it is so their emails will get priority. Then you can ignore the boring ones and just go to the folders of the people you want to hear from.

    I totally agree with you about history, I only read biographies, which is life without the theory.

    My favourite quote is that “History is an account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by leaders mostly rogues, and soldiers mostly fools.”

    Good luck, I admire your self discipline.

    best wishes
    Gareth

  6. Frank Haywood says:

    Nancy:

    It’s just a question of self-discipline I think. That and the fact that most of the email I receive isn’t worth reading.

    I think it was when I realised that most email doesn’t actually benefit me in any way that I found the self-discipline to stop reading it. Once upon a time when I got an email in my inbox, my reaction was “Wow! Someone has sent me an email! Cool!” and that was because receiving email was so rare.

    Now we all have to become much more selective because of the torrent of email we all receive every day.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m on maybe a hundred mailing lists, and I hardly ever unsubscribe. I use one email account to receive all my mailings from those lists, and what I do is when I check my email, I scan for a subject line that catches my eye.

    Anything with my name in the subject gets automatically ignored. I find it corny, although I know it works with many people.

    Anything with an exclamation mark (or two!!) (or three!!!) gets ignored.

    Something that intrigues me and leaves me with an unfinished thought will usually get my attention. So a title like “I noticed something strange this morning.” would get a look from me. Or “Would you mind helping me?” would probably work on me too.

    If I’m busy, I’ll just highlight all the messages and mark them as read.

    So with me (and I guess many people), it’s pot luck if you get my attention, but you can help it along with a well thought out subject line.

    To answer your question about the forum, as there would only be two or three people using it, my intention would be to check it every so often. The benefit of that would be I wouldn’t be distracted by anything else, and I would only be focussed on the things I needed to be.

    Alternatively, I could set it so that I’m sent an email notification every time a new message or reply is posted in a thread, and set up a new (and obscure) email account just for that. Then I could run a system tray application that alerted me whenever a new email arrived on that account.

    That would keep me in the loop and I wouldn’t have to check it so often. The downside to that is I could be interrupted when I’m working on something, and it’s the interruptions that decrease our productivity. So maybe I wouldn’t do that, but it might work for you or others.

    Donna:

    I already have one of those as you know, but even so I don’t check it that often unless I have something on. The forum should eliminate the need to check even that.

    I know when I’m going to receive messages from my Master Mind Group (call-in details), so I only check that account then, in addition to the twice weekly I check everythng else. Or at least my goal of twice weekly again, and then once per week after that.

    As for TV and News, you know that no news is good news, and that the media know that good news is no news, so they’ll spend most time reporting the bad stuff.

    Gareth:

    I use IMAP to collect and sort my email using multiple email accounts, and filters only work with POP3. I use OE, but I believe this is true of TB too.

    That’s a damn good idea though. Everybody take note of that.

    -Frank

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