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E-Mail Addiction 12-Steps Stumbles

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the big-shock-here dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 111

netbuzz writes "Talk about offering an alcoholic a drink? No. 2 of 12-step program for e-mail addiction: "Commit to keeping your inbox empty." ... Reuters is reporting today on this program from an executive coach. Here are 11 other reasons why it won't work." I know what the bottom of my inbox looks like, I just only get to see it for a few minutes a year.

cancel ×

111 comments

Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095284)

Every ten minutes? I've got Gmail open in its own tab [photobucket.com] . The moment I get an email, I know.

I've been described as the guy who "turns email into an instant-messaging system." I just wish Slashdot comment reply notification emails were sent out as they happened, instead of in batches every five minutes.

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1, Funny)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095320)

I've been described as the guy who "turns email into an instant-messaging system." I just wish Slashdot comment reply notification emails were sent out as they happened, instead of in batches every five minutes.

That's funny, I'm known as the guy who turns an instant-messaging system into snail mail because I forget to put up an away message and it confuses people.

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (2, Funny)

aallmighty (839195) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095358)

I've been described as the guy who "turns email into an instant-messaging system." I just wish Slashdot comment reply notification emails were sent out as they happened, instead of in batches every five minutes.

That's funny, I'm known as the guy who turns an instant-messaging system into snail mail because I forget to put up an away message and it confuses people.
I actually do both of those things... never realized how ridiculous I am until just now...

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

LordNightwalker (256873) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095392)

Heh, same problem here, though my contacts are already used to it. Now when I add new contacts, I just tell them upfront that I'm "online" 24/7, but that it doesn't mean I'm actually behind the computer, or even at home. Seems to work well enough; nowadays I only change my state to busy when I'm actually at the computer, and trying to get work done without being interrupted. Most of my contacts respect that and only disturb me for important messages, or something that can be said in 5 lines or less.

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098664)

All my accounts log on as Busy. From time to time I might change to On the Phone (if I'm IMing someone when the phone rings)... But generally I don't use those other, weird modes. I mean, why would I be at my computer if I wasn't keeping busy?

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096712)

Can't you just set MSN (well that's what I use, I guess you're probably using something else) to show itself as 'away' after you've been inactive for a while? Of course I always leave my account set to 'busy' anyway :p I dunno if it automatically sets itself to away when it's already set to busy.

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

pairo (519657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097112)

Yeah, but then you couldn't ignore people and then tell them you weren't actually at the computer. :-)

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099288)

I just leave mine on busy *always*, and I ignore heaps.

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

name*censored* (884880) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095470)

What's more ironic is that Gmail _already_ has instant messaging capabilities (albeit only to other Gmail accounts and/or people with googletalk capable messangers running). It's integrated by default to the inbox sidebar and the compose message tabs..

PS. I also run gmail in a dedicated tab, god bless firefox and its multiple homepage abilities

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095570)

I use both Google Talk (and Yahoo, and Aim, and ICQ, and another Jabber service called Pronto) and Gmail. "Instant messaging" is good for one-to-one, extended conversations; Email is great for multi-party conversations (mailing lists) long-winded replies, and one-shot replies.

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100088)

You can sign on to gmail's messaging with Gaim. It's just another Jabber server.

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (3, Interesting)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095608)

I've been described as the guy who "turns email into an instant-messaging system."
I coined the phrase "mail-chatting" for that behaviour back in 1996 and been happily addicted since. :-P

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099254)

I coined the phrase "mail-chatting" for that behaviour back in 1996 and been happily addicted since. :-P

I got you beat, then. I started doing that in 1989 when I was in college at SUNY Alfred.

The SUNY schools were, at the time, connected to BITNet, and there was also a DECNet network that connected all of the SUNY schools with VAXes. The DECNet-based network allowed inter-node chat, something like talk on *NIX, but slightly more aesthetically pleasing.

Anyway, I used this system to talk to some friends who were attending SUNY Morrisville, until their sysop decided to remove all user-land networking tools except for e-mail. Hence, we started chatting by e-mail.

Re:Email is for instant-messaging. (1)

Arctic Fox (105204) | more than 7 years ago | (#18102712)

It was called "phone".. it's still around on VMS.

This is just GTD (2, Informative)

ellem (147712) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095336)

Empty Inbox
Anything under 2 minutes do it

Yadda yadda

Re:This is just GTD (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095486)

Or just start to realize that you recieve roughly ZERO mails a year that need a 2-minute response.

Honestly; if people want 2-minute responses, why would they use a medium that most people don't checks every 2 minutes. Use the phone!

Are you really willing to say that the maximum time between sitting at your desk, walking to the toilet, taking a dump then returning to your desk is 2 minutes? Are all your company meetings 2 minutes? Do you take 2-minute lunchbreaks? Do you ever sleep, have weekends, vacations for less than 2 minutes? Do you make love within 2 minutes? Actually, don't answer that last one; this is slashdot afterall.

If you're addicted to e-mail, you're probably thinking people cannot do without your response. You're wrong.

Re:This is just GTD (5, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095952)

And this is the exact reason for the existence of the crackberry and its analogues. Some people consider it essential that any of their messages get through to you now and immediately and you read them regardless of what you are doing at the moment. This is generally the same type of people who forget that freedom of speech actually includes the freedom of not to listen. These are also the same kind of people who cannot comprehend the importance of being able to work without interruption. Hence, here is my simple program for beating email addiction (it will not work for all workflows though):
  • Change your workflow to read your email only at fixed intervals at fixed times during the day devoting the rest to doing work. Ensure that you are managing your time, and not email.
  • Turn off instant notifications, toolbar email status, cretinberries and analogues.
  • Once you have seen what gets missed when doing so create suitable notifications for the really important stuff that cannot and should not be missed. Make sure that important means only events that actually alter your schedule and not every email coming in.
  • Rinse, repeat until you get yourself up to 80%+ doing scheduled work instead of interrupt driven one.
Once you have succeeded in this you have beaten your addiction. Been there, done that.

Re:This is just GTD (1)

Mark_Uplanguage (444809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097148)

Now that I'm not reading email all of the time, all I have to do is stop reading slashdot all of the time!

Re:This is just GTD (2, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099290)

Great points. And as someone who recently read GTD, and decided to give cleaning out my 4000+ email inbox a shot, it's honestly one of the first times that i've felt seriously on top of everything I need to do in a long time. Turning off the notifications and putting my blackberry on "silent" mode for incoming messages was crucial to this.

What I've found is that responding immediately to constant interrupts only serves to reinforce the notion among my co-workers that I'm constantly interruptible (This may sound like a "No shit, sherlock" moment, but it really is something you lose sight of when you're constantly being interrupted). Only checking my inbox once every hour or two and turning off all the beeps & notifications has worked wonders on my ability to focus & get things done, and it's also helped to break my co-workers of the notion that they can interrupt me at any moment they feel it's necessary.

Re:This is just GTD (3, Informative)

kbielefe (606566) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100028)

An easy way I found to use automatic rules to sort my email:

  • Anything sent only to me is much more likely to be something I have been waiting for, or something I would want to respond to quickly, so I usually read these right away, even if I don't end up responding right away. Of course, I'm not one of those people who gets email from potential clients, readers, fans, etc.
  • If my name is in the "To" box, but I'm not the only one, I set aside a few different times during the day to read those.
  • Anything sent to a mailing list or where I'm only CCed, I only read once a day, and frequently just delete after reading the subject line.
  • I ignore the "important" flag, except for people I know don't abuse it, like the system administrator who only uses it for stuff like emergency reboots.
  • I don't check personal email accounts at work.
I've found this allows me to be interrupted when I want to be interrupted, but to make the interruptions minimal. Sometimes, I make specific rules for specific situations, but most of the time, these generic rules work great.

Re:This is just GTD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100720)

> This is generally the same type of people who forget that freedom of speech actually includes the freedom of not to listen.

No it's not. That's a total non sequitur.

Re:This is just GTD (3, Informative)

jlf278 (1022347) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096734)

the article is not talking about emails that require response WITHIN two minutes, but rather ones that would consume less than two minutes of your time.

Re:This is just GTD (4, Informative)

Imsdal (930595) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096844)

Huh? I think you miss the point on what the 2 minute rule in GTD is.

The 2 minute rule says that when you process your inbox (any inbox, e.g. e-mail, physical, voicemail), and the result is that you should do something (as oppsed to delegate, file for reference or just plain delete), you should do it immediately. If, on the other hand, the action will take longer than 2 minutes, you should file it in your trusted system and continue emptying your inbox.

The 2 minute rule most definitely does *not* say that you should ever be expected to answer any e-mail within 2 minutes, for exactly the reasons you list.

I thought every computer geek worth his salt knew about all about GTD by now, but from your post and the moderation of it, I see that that's not the case.

Re:This is just GTD (1)

Cally (10873) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100934)

But phones are molto distracting if you're in a meeting, whereas these days at least half the participants in the meetings I attend listen with their ears whilst staring intently into their laptops. I work at one of those companies where everyone except the receptionist gets a laptop. Interesting experience. Hell, I call a buddy in another building to ask if he fancies sloping outside for a quick fag in the bikeshed in 2 mins all the time.

(Note, I'm UKish, and there's nothing remotely amusing about that last sentence.)

Re:This is just GTD (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#18103414)

Or just start to realize that you recieve roughly ZERO mails a year that need a 2-minute response.

I while ago I had aging mail servers on a two minute spam processing cycle to keep them going at all - nobody got email in less than two minutes. One user had an annoying habit of popping the server every single second when they expected important emails which slowed the creaking and overloaded system even more and they still would only get their mail in two minute batches. This exact behavior spread over an entire electrical engineering department completely halted email for a few days at a small Australian University a few years back.

The funniest thing in the article is people who don't get emails and send some to themselves - I've done that but I've always looked at the logs first to see if nobody was getting mail.

Re:This is just GTD (1)

Antemeridian (978910) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096366)

And there's a good series by Merlin Mann at 43 Folders (http://www.43folders.com) called Inbox Zero that also deals with a lot of this from a GTD perspective. I know I love having the empty inbox, and when I see some people who will have 8000-10000 messages in their inbox (and 40 open at any given time, its kind of scary when people actually have to have a vertical scrollbar on their Outlook stack on the Windows Taskbar), I'm definitely thankful that I keep things slightly clearer.

Slashdot needs a new tagline (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18095362)

I know what the bottom of my inbox looks like, I just only get to see it for a few minutes a year.


News For Nerds. Stuff that Matters. Grammar optional.

I tried GTD... (2, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095374)

It takes me 3 minutes to figure out if something will take me less than 2 minutes to do, so I get a deadlock. The only real solution is writing post-its on a whiteboard.

Re:I tried GTD... (4, Funny)

Trails (629752) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095482)

Post it's kill trees. To be more environmentally friendly, maybe you should send yourself an email about it.

Re:I tried GTD... (3, Informative)

TrentC (11023) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097202)

It takes me 3 minutes to figure out if something will take me less than 2 minutes to do, so I get a deadlock. The only real solution is writing post-its on a whiteboard.

As with most things, people like to nitpick the fine details as a way of criticizing the whole.

As a fairly new GTD user, I've discovered that much of GTD is meant to be used as guidelines or strategies, not divine commands from on high. The important principles of GTD are:

1) Collect all of the unfinished tasks and projects in your life ("open loops" in GTD parlance).
2) Go through that collection and decide what needs to be done with each open loop:
      * Can it be done right now, in 2 minutes or less? If so, do it.
      * If not, can you delegate it to someone else? If so, do so.
      * If not, what's the "Next Action" (more GTD jargon) that needs to be done, either to finish it or to move it to the next step?
3) Keep track of your Next Actions in a trusted system -- notebook, PDA, text files, whatever -- so you know what needs to be done when you have time to do it.
4) Once you know what all needs to be done, you are capable of making informed decisions as to what you should be doing at any given moment. (To me, this is the most significant point of GTD.)

If you can make those principles work, the details are negotiable. If it takes you more than two minutes to figure out what needs to be done and your incoming traffic and workload permits it, set the threshold to 5 minutes. The GTD book itself usually describes seveal methods of approaching a step.

This is what drives websites like Lifehacker [lifehacker.com] and 43 Folders [43folders.com] ; people are sharing things that work for them or pointing out new things that can be used to implement GTD or otherwise improve personal productivity.

(Yes, I know that parent was probably just trying to be funny. But I still wanted to throw my two cents out for people who haven't tried GTD, or tried and haven't been able to make it work.)

Jay (=

They're good suggestions actually. (2, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095394)

Perhaps the article is mr. McNamara's poor attempt at humour, but most of those 12 points are actually very good suggestions to help manage your email... If you're stressed because you get too many items in your inbox (or more probably, if you think you're getting too many mails), they'll help a lot. Perhaps they're not so good for overcoming an actual addiction though. For that, step 1 and some discipline is enough.

Most of these tips come from Getting things done [amazon.com] , which I can highly recommend if you're stressed out because you feel you have more work than you can manage. It worked wonders for me!

Re:They're good suggestions actually. (1)

Livius (318358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096972)

I disagree as to 'good suggestions'. I was immediately reminded of a Dilbert cartoon where the engineers critiqued an expensive consultant's recommendations: "a bunch of obvious generalities with no business value".

Re:They're good suggestions actually. (1)

nickyj (142376) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097072)

I concur. My inbox is my todo list, everything else gets filtered to folders. I move them OUT of the folder if it's something I need to do. Now only if my company will move off MS Exchange. Stupid thing has a hard limit like 32 KB of rules you can save and have active. How crappy is that?

Re:They're good suggestions actually. (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097410)

My inbox is my todo list, everything else gets filtered to folders. I move them OUT of the folder if it's something I need to do. Now only if my company will move off MS Exchange.
Good for you if you're happy with that method, but don't think it's the be-all-end-all for the rest of the world. Time management methods are like diets: what works for one guy may not work for another. Which is why I suggested to try the "GTD" method if you feel you are swamped by your incoming email. If not, just continue as you were. But don't dismiss the method just because it doesn't fit your particular job, work mode, or personality.

Wow. (2, Insightful)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095398)

The 12 steps really seem more along the lines of, "12 steps to managing your e-mail more efficiently" rather than breaking any habits. At the same time, they don't increase e-mail checking efficiency. In fact, half of them don't even seem to be steps.

However, there's a deep question here. Who the heck includes multiple subjects in one e-mail? Even with spambots I've never seen "Re: The backyard/fiscal policy".

So weird.

Re: Single Subject per Message (3, Funny)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095642)

I guess you haven't met practitioners of the SuperFootnote. The trick is they only have 1 subject in the header, but as last-minute item tacked on below.

P.S. Did you see the Vista article in the Register a couple threads below this?

and remember... (2, Funny)

physicsboy500 (645835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095408)

There really isn't a king in Nigeria that left his fortune to you, so just don't bother.

Re:and remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18095490)

That's ok, I got a great tip about a stock that is guarnateeed (sic) to triple in value by friday. I don't need any Nigerian kings leaving me money, I can earn it for myself.

What about spam? (4, Insightful)

Valdez (125966) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095414)

It's interesting that the 12 steps don't mention anything about mitigating or reducing SPAM... seems like it should be step 0 to me.

A large portion of the time spent on many people's email is deleting & weeding through SPAM, and if you didn't get a single piece of spam, you'd spend a lot less time in your inbox...and what time you did spend would be productive.

Re:What about spam? (2, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095532)

It's interesting that the 12 steps don't mention anything about mitigating or reducing SPAM... seems like it should be step 0 to me.
How much time do you really spend on deleting spam?

Spam is highly annoying if you pull up your inbox every time your computer goes 'ping' and the little envelope appears in the tool tray. However if you follow the tips in the article and sit down every hour, 2 hours, day (whatever works for you) to process everything in your inbox in one go, spam takes just seconds to deal with. 99% can be identified from the subject line and/or sender, just highlight the lot and hit del. It's still annoying, but you won't waste much time dealing with it.

Re:What about spam? (1)

thatnerdguy (551590) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095946)

It's even quicker if you use a spam filter or a service with a spam filter. I get a ton of spam at my gmail account, but 99% goes straight to the spam folder. I still get the odd message that doesnt get filtered but that's quickly rectified. Although, I'll admit that if I'm at home, I know instantly when I have mail, thanks to Notifier.

Re:What about spam? (1)

Valdez (125966) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099172)

That was the entire point.

Assuming you haven't compromised your email address (lots of ways to do this), you might not get much spam, in which case it doesn't take a lot of time. If you do get spam, having automated means to manage it can help (although I'd argue that your best bet is to not get it in the first place)

These are the things that users need to be educated in BEFORE you can move on to other email productivity "best practices". I don't care how good your are at managing your email time, if you're still using your address to "sign up to win a free vacation!" on every random website that flashes a banner at you, you're going to waste a good portion of it.

Re:What about spam? (1)

e40 (448424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100084)

I get a fair amount of spam, but spend less than a minute a day deleting it. spamassassin + procmail puts it into a folder I read once a day. So, I don't think this is the problem you think it is.

Speaking of email, is there a Tbird extension... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095438)

for transferring mail to an archive folder that can be mapped to a keystroke?

Right now I have a trash box that is a zillion emails long - I use it as an archive and a trashcan at the same time. What I really want is an archive box that I can hit a key (hey, how 'bout that scroll lock key?) to send my "real" archive emails to, and use the delete key for the actual trash? I suspect it's out there, but sifting through the extensions on the mozilla page is almost as much fun as chewing sand.

Oh, and please don't suggest gmail.

Re:Speaking of email, is there a Tbird extension.. (2, Insightful)

Magada (741361) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095526)

Set a 5-second delay on "read" marker, use the five seconds to trash the junk and/or mark the spam, have your mail client auto-move the rest of your read messages to a "read" folder, filter on subject/list/whatever from there. No extensions needed.

Re:Speaking of email, is there a Tbird extension.. (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099538)

That's an interesting suggestion. It would work better if I didn't use the inbox as a to-do folder, though. Cool idea for separating the wheat from the chaff semi-automagically.

Re:Speaking of email, is there a Tbird extension.. (3, Insightful)

Joe Rumsey (2194) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095628)

Yes there is, GmailUI [longshot.com] . I'm NOT suggesting GMail. The name of this Thunderbird extension is GMailUI because it adds several GMail features to Thunderbird, including making the y key move the current email to an archive folder.

Re:Speaking of email, is there a Tbird extension.. (1)

awing0 (545366) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095632)

My Inbox is my month/two month long archive. If it gets too big I move everything over 30 days old to a folder called Archive. Thunderbird's junk mail filter works really well, so well in fact I still haven't installed spamassassin on my mail server. The junk mail filter moves spam to the junk folder and if it misses any, I just toggle the junk mail flag and it moves it for me. If you don't like leaving messages in your inbox, just set up some filters. It's pretty flexible, I have filters that sort out newsletters and announce lists to keep clutter down.

Re:Speaking of email, is there a Tbird extension.. (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097034)

My email looks like that when I'm really busy - my inbox tends to be a "to do" list of sorts - once I've addressed the issue, the files get moved. I do have several rules and folders for various things, but I work on about 200 projects a year and making a folder for each one would be cumbersome at best - especially when it's almost as useful to just have everything in a bin and use the search. I also tend to get ads and seminar/training info from various places, and most of them I want...at least temporarily, but I'd rather not have them clogging up the "archive".

The junk mail filter on my tbird must have been untrained quite well. I've got spamassassin on my server, but tbird still lets a lot of the new span through (maybe 10-15%). Admittedly, it's my fault - I need to abandon my separate-email-per-vendor old school tracking so I can just blackhole the catchall instead of reading it. Another item for my "when I'm not busy" list.

GMail (1)

hernyo (770695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096164)

On the 8th day, God created GMail.

They Missed the Point (1)

jeevesbond (1066726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095458)

2. Commit to keeping your inbox empty. What am I missing? I'm already committed to keeping my inbox empty. I'm so committed to keeping my inbox empty that I'm checking my e-mail more often than hibernating animals breathe. I don't need more commitment. I need to be committed.

They missed the point on this, Reuters meant you should just press Ctrl-A followed by the Del key to keep your inbox empty. This has even been proven to work against e-mails from sloping-shouldered middle management, bonus!

Don't Organize (2, Insightful)

rodney dill (631059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095462)

Don't organize, just file everything in one folder. Use 'Search' to find everything/anything. a massive nest of folder's just gives you more places to have to search.

Re:Don't Organize (3, Insightful)

schiefaw (552727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095544)

Absolutely! I went through the "Getting Things Done" class, and I am trying to use parts of it. When it comes to emptying the inbox I cheat like crazy. Company policy dictates that anything in the inbox gets automatically deleted after 30 day. So, I have a folder called "reference" when I just drop everything in my inbox after I have read them. I then use Google Desktop to search for the correct messages when needed. I have saved a TON of time.

Re:Don't Organize (1)

Imsdal (930595) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097158)

Just out of curiosity, why do you consider this "cheating"? Referencing stuff where you can find it and keeping your inbox empty is just what the doctor ordered!

At my company, we run the office apps in a hosted Citrix environment, so it's impossible to install anything. Thus, I can't run Google Desktop Search, X1 or anything else, and searching e-mail is virtually impossible. (Outlook's built in search takes two-three minutes, typically, which feels like hours and is completely unusable in practice.) Then filing stuff becomes vital, but today, everyone should really adopt the Google mantra of "search, don't sort". Anything else is just stupid, IMNSHO.

Re:Don't Organize (1)

schiefaw (552727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097596)

It is only "cheating" in the sense that when I took the "Getting Things Done" class there wasn't a lot of full indexing going on. Therefore, the taught technique involved sorting messages into a number of folders based on what you would do with them. Now, you can just have a heap of messages, use tasks and followups to keep track of action items, and use the search when you need to reference something.

Where's the religion? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095518)

This 12-step program is missing the essential step: "Accept Shub-Internet [ccil.org] as your personal Savior."

My last employer insisted on this (4, Funny)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095528)

We had a clear desk policy which was extended to email - not by force, but I was asked to get my inbox down to nothing.

Solution: Set up a folder called "Not Inbox" and a rule to automatically push all incoming email to that.

I was able to honestly say that my inbox was completely empty.

Re:My last employer insisted on this (4, Funny)

rodney dill (631059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095832)

Better yet, label your new INBOX as 'EMPTY'
Then you can always say, my inbox is EMPTY.

(probably depends on what the meaning of is is)

Re:My last employer insisted on this (1)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098276)

We just migrated from GroupWise to Microsoft Exchange (don't ask me to explain why; I wasn't part of the migration team). They had to make a requirement that staffers couldn't have more than 4000 messages in their inbox prior to migration. This was tough because some long-time staffers literally had tens of thousands of messages in there.

When you start using your inbox like a file server, there's a problem.

Re:My last employer insisted on this (1)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099024)

I must admit, I never got that. I used to think it was a question of computer literacy--most of the liberal arts types in college had enormous inboxes, while all my friends in CS, EE, etc., had sparkling clean ones (and multi-k .procmailrc's). Now that I'm a professional programmer though, I think it's deeper than that--it seems to correlate with possession of the true hacker nature, which is not actually necessary to be a competent programmer. Show me someone with a clean inbox, and I'll show you someone who's defined a couple dozen shell aliases, writes shell scripts on a regular basis, uses meta-key shortcuts, etc. Or that could just be me.

Honestly though, I only have three real folders--"letters", "work", and "tech". tech holds account confirmations, shipping receipts, and, in general, stuff generated by computers. letters and work hold important communication from real people, segregated based on whether it's work related or not. The other twenty or so folders are for mailing lists.

Re:My last employer insisted on this (1)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099814)

I use my inbox as a to do list. Rarely anything in there more than a day or week old. Stuff that I don't want to or don't have to do. I've never written as shell script, but I was once a computer science major. Maybe people with clean mailboxes are just 'suited' for writing shell scripts? I do have a few folders that I separate things into. Mostly because I get so much crap from my coworkers. A new letterhead here, a new policy there, but so much that it is a waste of time to store it on the server.

It needs to be sorted so I know what I'm looking for. I've got 'information' 'docs' and 'eligibility' (I do not work for a singles website). And another called 'outside' which is basically anything from a friend that I want to hold on to. When something is done, it is deleted.

Re:My last employer insisted on this (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101500)

Would you like to work at my place? ;)

All joking aside, now I'm managing the email system. 30-odd people, 59GB growing at a rate of about 30GB/year. It's compounded by people who see email as essentially a glorified filesystem with the added bonus that it's easy to see who each file relates to because it's self-organising in that regard.

I'm in two minds: either I stop adding disk and start enforcing policies like "no email over 6 months old" (some people keep everything for years, however tiny or irrelevant it may be) - this would prove immensely unpopular but nice and cheap - or I keep adding disk at extortionate rates.

Disk is cheap, that's true. But it's nowhere near as cheap when you're using SCSI and you've realistically got to buy at least two of any given disk for redundancy purposes, and there's only so many disks you can fit in a server. I shall look long and hard at SATA for the next server purchase.

why everything is in my inbox (1)

Rozzin (9910) | more than 7 years ago | (#18102744)

I store all of my e-mail in my inbox, including my sent mail--for one thing, this makes it /vastly/ easier to go back through threads.

Unread/new messages are... not marked as Read.

By default, all I see are the unread messages, and whatever I've flagged.

Alternate views (e.g.: everything that I sent, everything that another particular person/entity sent, all messages about some topic, messages within some date-range...) are defined primarily by searches.

But if I don't check my email constantly (4, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095546)

I might miss out on all these job offers I am getting from all over the world. All I have to do is cash checks and I get 10% of the profits, and I only had to give them my contact info, SSN, account numbers and passwords. What suckers!

Wrong addiction (2, Funny)

thc69 (98798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095640)

Forget email...what about a 12 step program for my wife's World of Warcrack addiction?

Re:Wrong addiction (1)

lky (246353) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095794)

Yeah, "your wife's" addiction. Right...........

Re:Wrong addiction (1)

Branor (992046) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095970)

Only one step necessary: Get a Warcrack subscription for yourself.

Re:Wrong addiction (1)

thc69 (98798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096368)

Damn you, pusher! She's already lost her job. If I lose mine too, we won't be able to pay our Warcrack subscriptions.

Re:Wrong addiction (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097286)

That's okay, welfare should be enough to cover them.

Re:Wrong addiction (4, Funny)

prelelat (201821) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096484)

phone your provider and tell them to cut off you internet connection. Don't tell her. When it gets cut off freak out and phone the provider, have a big fight and at the end say "No way don't even bother I'm not dealing with you again" and then hang up. Tell your wife that she will have to go without internet until you are able to find a company that isn't a bunch of assholes. When she leaves to go to the internet cafe down the street call the lock smith, and change the locks. When she gets back make her cancle her WOW subscription and hand over her credit cards. You might have to wait her out on that one but it should work.

Re:Wrong addiction (1)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098286)

I don't know what's scarier, that you wrote this or that it sounds like reasonably sane advice.

Why assume email is bad? (0)

redelm (54142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095818)

... or at least that email is overused? That case has to be proven. People use email because they want to and expect each other to.

Frankly, I much prefer email to voicemail. Live phone calls are better for some subjects, but worse for others.

10 suggestions (2, Interesting)

llZENll (545605) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095850)

I think reuters is right, most of the suggestions are pretty worthless.

How about these suggestions:

1) If you are getting email that is routine (for archive purposes), setup scripts to auto file them.

2) Remove your email address from any webpages where it isn't absolutely needed.

3) Change your email address! It may sound harsh, but a fresh start will surely curb your email intake, send your new address out to only the people you MUST stay in touch with. The people who HAVE to contact you will make a call or get your new email some way.

4) Only reply if asked to or it is absolutely necessary. A lot of email is simple yes, or haha comments, which are pretty much worthless and are only wasting yours and others time.

5) If you do reply stay on topic and keep it short as possible, if it is long or complicated this is why will still have those things called phones.

6) Automatically delete and never forward any of those chain letters or joke emails, what a waste of time and bandwidth those things are.

7) If you don't think you are going to reply or dont want to reply within the next 24 hours to an email just delete it, otherwise it will pile up and create a psycological burden for you.

8) Have a good SPAM filter.

9) Setup an autoreply for common questions you get asked.

10) It sounds simple but setup a signature, no point in wasting your time typing your name or website address.

Really... [HINT- MOD ME OFFTOPIC] (-1, Offtopic)

Marcos Eliziario (969923) | more than 7 years ago | (#18095942)

Take a look at how many stories from Network World have been published lately. Is that story insightful? funny? useful? I know /. is going downhill lately: there's a lot of stupid mods, lots of dups, but still we have to draw the line somewhere, and I think that becoming a dumpster of Network World risible stories is a bit far that line.

Re:Really... [HINT- MOD ME OFFTOPIC] (-1, Offtopic)

pmhudepo (595903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096334)

I know /. is going downhill lately

/. must have started on top of a really big hill, because it's been going downhill for a long time now, according to many a witness.

5. "... create a file for mails..." (2, Insightful)

Browzer (17971) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096066)

How the hell do you create a file for mails?

Idiotic "executive coaches" should learn the difference between a file and a folder before advising and devising programs.

If you are in the "executive" category, the only step you need is:

1. Hire human(s)-email filter/secretary. Don't hire consultants.

Re:5. "... create a file for mails..." (1)

The Darkness (33231) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096636)

How the hell do you create a file for mails?

Idiotic "executive coaches" should learn the difference between a file and a folder before advising and devising programs.

If you are in the "executive" category, the only step you need is:

1. Hire human(s)-email filter/secretary. Don't hire consultants.
It's more than likely someone trying to use terminology the executives will understand.

If you look around in meatspace you may see these (usually metal) cabinets with drawers in them that some people call filing cabinets. The folders and records in those are probably referred to collectively as files. So from the perspective of the executive creating a file for the emails makes sense. It's probably faster for the consultant to use that term rather than try to explain the concept of folders to a bunch of guys who don't have time for that nonsense because there's a tee-off at 2:30.

Re:5. "... create a file for mails..." (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18096950)

Because executives have never heard of folders? Those beige-colored pieces of light cardboard that are folded around documents before placing them in the filing cabinet?

Re:5. "... create a file for mails..." (1)

Browzer (17971) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098068)

Anyone with an elementary school education, including executives :), should know the difference between "file" the noun, and "file" the verb. In this case I doubt the advisor/coach is dumbing-down the language for the sake of the executives. On the bright side at least there is no confussion about "folder".

From experience, most executive-types I know that tee-off at 2:30 have at least 1 human-email filter, and don't have to worry about email addiction.

Re:5. "... create a file for mails..." (1)

The Darkness (33231) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098414)

Anyone with an elementary school education, including executives :), should know the difference between "file" the noun, and "file" the verb.
You're asking people that incentivise their human resources to synergise solution production to remember elementary school grammar. ;) Yes, I know the difference, I was simply trying to show how a coach could reason their way to using certain terms that we find ridiculous. Being able to reason that way can help when I'm trying to figure out what someone who isn't familiar with the "proper" terminology is saying.

In this case I doubt the advisor/coach is dumbing-down the language for the sake of the executives. On the bright side at least there is no confusion about "folder".
I can see it now: "But.. but.. it doesn't fold."

From experience, most executive-types I know that tee-off at 2:30 have at least 1 human-email filter, and don't have to worry about email addiction.
Heh, I was attempting humor there. Oh well, I obviously failed that time.

Re:5. "... create a file for mails..." (1)

defaria (741527) | more than 7 years ago | (#18102338)

Actually all of my email folders are implemented as files...

Ummm... (2, Insightful)

14CharUsername (972311) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096090)

I have a little icon (Gmail notify) that sits in the system tray that is red when I have no unread messages and blue when there are unread messages. When a message comes in it pops up on the screen the subject who its from and the first few words of the email. I set up filters so that non-urgent stuff gets labelled and archived without bugging me.

Is constantly checking my email a problem when checking email is just glancing an inch to the right of the clock at the top of my screen? Usually when I actually go to my inbox I already know whats there because I saw the popup when it came in.

And if you don't like GMail there's similar solutions available. Its really not hard to get the best of both worlds, keeping on top of your emails without having to spend a lot of time constantly checking it.

Let Rules Help You (1)

christoofar (451967) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096600)

The only way I could make sense of my inbox was to look at all the people who routinely send me stuff.

Then, I created a folder for each person and setup an inbox rule (easy in KMail or Outlook) to move the message to a tingle-table folder based on each person.

At work this keeps my inbox clear almost all-day long, and I can quickly get to the people I need to reply to quickly, and let all the personal/jokes/riffraff and autoresponders gather dust until I login late at night from home and read it.

When I am REALLY busy and don't want distraction, I just close my email reader completely and forward my extension to my (turned off) cell phone.

Walk-ups to my desk get a very grumpy face and a "I am really busy, it will have to wait" response.

Re:Let Rules Help You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18098224)

The problem is Outlook will still ding you with the new mail notification, even if your filter dumped the mail straight into the trash can.

I don't have an inbox (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18096756)

I just read the packets as they come in on port 25.

Re:I don't have an inbox (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097334)

This post is made of God and win.

Simply hilarious.

Re:I don't have an inbox (1)

wuie (884711) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097468)

This post is made of God and win.

If it was really made of Godwin, it would have included Nazis.

Email time-savers? (1)

jahudabudy (714731) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097368)

Am I the only one that sees the irony in a bunch of /. posts discussing how best to save time on email? It's like an alcoholic giving advice on giving up coffee, cause, you know, caffeine is bad for you.

Someone mod parent insightful! (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100296)

LOL

I sent her an e-mail... (1)

orpheum (1064692) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098056)

I just sent Marsha Egan an e-mail telling her how dumb her suggestions/steps were. And in reality, that's exactly what they are... dumb. I also offered to produce new websites for her though. =)

Re:I sent her an e-mail... (1)

Lithdren (605362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18102520)

ahh, but did you get a responce from mrs. Marsha Egan within 2 mins?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Re:I sent her an e-mail... (1)

orpheum (1064692) | more than 7 years ago | (#18102614)

No! She didn't even have the decency to send a form letter! >:( Although I'm betting she's having quite the time keeping her "inbox empty" after word about this got around!

My inbox is empty... (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098132)

...I just copied them all to read.

Now I have an empty inbox and a read mail folder with 25,656 mails in it.

One of these days I should get round to sorting the read mail.

Email abuse. (1)

niktemadur (793971) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099786)

A few years ago, during the months leading to the first wave of spam attacks, I started receiving a lot of chain-letter emails, along the lines of "send this message to ten (or twenty or whatever) people you know, and something wonderful will happen to you within the next week". Sometimes it was some .pps with a bogus Dalai Lama message, sometimes just a selfish attempt by the superstitious to score points with some fortune deity.
One time, to my astonishment, it was just a list of email addresses upon addresses, hundreds of them, no message included, being sent and resent by who knows what idiots. One fed up guy replied to the original sender and to all of us hapless sendees, ripping the sender a new one, it was a sight to behold.

Once I switched to Gmail, I was much warier of giving out my address, emphasizing "Do NOT send any crap, okay?" It worked for more than a year, but then I started receiving another kind of chain-letter email, of the scaremongering urban-legend variety, you know the type, a nameless friend of a friend of a friend went drinking, ended up bedding a hot chick, then woke up two days later in some hotel room, blind and missing his corneas, or a kidney or whatever.
Or another round of .pps files, this time smearing political candidates or explaining electoral fraud step by step, calling upon you to do something immediately about it, such as, you guessed it, "resend this email to ten (or twenty or whatever) people you know". The result is that I'm getting flooded by spam again, but thankfully the Gmail filters seem to be holding up quite well.

It's email abuse, pure and simple, but they don't see it that way, as they think they're doing a public service. Even the top brass of the company I work for, as well as members of my family, read this crap and resend to as many people as possible it with no attempt towards keeping private addresses private, and probably even pat themselves on the back about it.

Out of this dunghill, I have to admit there was a true gem once. I got this outraged email, sent to about a hundred people at once, by this guy who went to the supermarket late at night to buy a carton of milk, found it easy to go the wrong way in the empty parking lot, and got fined by the traffic cops within private property. He went on a rant about it, and at the end attached the fine in jpeg format, as irrefutable evidence of his victimization at the hands of "the pigs".
I mean, there's something so Lebowsky about it. I'd betcha The Dude would have a Hotmail address!

It really only takes three steps (1)

Phred T. Magnificent (213734) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099810)

It really only takes three steps:
  1. Get SpamAssassin working well
  2. Set up a good .procmailrc (remember, /dev/null is a good option for 90% of everything)
  3. Check email when you arrive at work, when you get back from lunch and just before you leave. Ignore it the rest of the day.

What would Bill W. do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100550)

I do not have an e-mail addiction but I do have a few other addictions that require Twelve Step Programs-- not designed by an executive coach-- but rather a brilliant man [wikipedia.org] who many agree co-founded the first Twelve Step Program [wikipedia.org] of Alcoholics Anonymous [wikipedia.org] .

I am somewhat ashamed that they would call these steps a 12 Step Program. Call it a support group or guidelines for managing your e-mail habits! This, in my opinion, puts to shame what millions of 12 Steppers around the world would agree to be a life saving program.

I'm also curious if this Marsha Egan herself has an e-mail addiction... I would like to know of her experience with e-mail addiction as well as her successes and failures with her devised program. Someone that hasn't experienced the hell that I went through has no right to tell me what I'm going through and how to relieve the torment.

The more I write about this, the more this bothers me.

With all this said, I have to stress that once again I have no experience with e-mail addiction so I have no basis to judge what's going to work for the e-mail addict. If it works for you -- it works for you! -- keep up the good work!

Also, God-speed and a healthy recovery to those that are afflicted with any such illness whether e-mail, alcohol, sex, gambling, food or drugs (to name a few). If any of you think you have a problem and your life has become unmanageable because of an addiction, know that there is a solution out there, and generally within a few miles from where you are right now.

Those who can't teach . . . (1)

ZombieSquirrel (978302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100744)

What the hell is an executive coach? Is this someone who has reached the top of their field, but decided to retire from executing and help others reach their goals? They got tired of making executive salaries? Got tired of the biggest office in the building?

I guessing a executive coach is a two bit hack whose only talent in life is convincing people that they need to take spurious seminars. If they new something about being a successful executive, they would be successful executives. And, I'm guessing that a successful execitive doesn't need much coaching.

Addiction, (1)

DrLov3 (1025033) | more than 7 years ago | (#18102002)

Addiction is realted to crack and heroïne. I don't know of anyone who ruined his life on e-mail, let alone instant messaging. The day you are willing to sell your T.V. or give a blowjob for your emails, ok, then, i'll be convinced that you are addicted, until then, keep the word "addicted" for real serious addictions like drugs, not emails or IM or WOW for that matter.
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