Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Embracing the present

It's been a while, I admit. But this time has been very productive. I got married and enjoyed a two-week honeymoon in the Greek Islands. Things were and are vey good.

Now I'm back in Waterloo and taking on more responsibilities at work than ever before. What does this mean? Three things:

1) More meetings - an unavoidable plague as old as work itself

2) More email - and thus more and more semi-involvement in things I really shouldn't allow to distract me

3) More mobility - in my case meaning the need to embrace technologies that I, for obvious reasons, should be using. In fact, this post is being entirely prepared on my new Blackberry Curve, not because I need to (my laptop's sitting right next to me) but so that when the time comes that I actually need to accomplish tasks like this in an airport, on a bus, or in a meeting (see #1 above), I'll be ready.

I would like to address all three of these points, but I have to say typing on this keyboard is painful beyond my wildest expectations, so let's just talk about #2. How do you/I deal with a big increase in email?

My current strategy has got me pretty far but is starting to buckle under the weight. It goes like this:

1) Keep the inbox clean. I use Gmail filters to apply labels to any mail from a mailing list. (Nearly) every mailing list has its own label, so I'm up to about 30 now. But the nice thing about this is I can always see unread counts for every mailing list. A clean inbox is a happy inbox. Personally, if after sorting through my mail there are still more than five items in my inbox (meaning I've read them but have to respond) I get nervous. I sleep well when the count is about 2.

2) Keep label unread counts near zero. This way I can easily scan which lists had recent activity. Then I go through my labels in decreasing importance/relevance to me until I've spent more than 5 minutes. After this point, I mark all the rest as read and get back to "real" work. It's possible that I would miss some things this way, but to my knowledge it hasn't happened yet.

3) Sort out all email at end of day and beginning of day. If I don't do this, email piles up so badly in between that just opening my inbox makes me depressed.

The real question for me is how to do #3. My ideal situation would be to get a treadmill, a wireless mouse, and a giant projection screen so I could read while exercising (which I absolutely can not do on a normal sized screen). Unfortunately, I'm not there yet. I just suffer through with my laptop while half-watching Hell's Kitchen.

I really do have more to say here, but my fingers are absolutely killing me.