This post might seem like it doesn’t apply to you. But if you’re out of college, and in the work world, I bet email management has quickly become a major part of your job. Here’s a great little picture of the dysfunctional the way most of us use email [which he follows with a strategy to help us improve]:
To better understand why so many of us do email so badly, lets draw a comparison to real-world object: your mailbox. Imagine if you treated your actual mail like you treat your email. Here’s how it would go.
You walk outside to check your mail and reach into your mailbox. Sure enough, you’ve got some new mail. You take out one of your letters, open it up, and and begin to read it. You get about halfway though, realize it is not that interesting, stuff it back in the mailbox muttering “I’ll deal with this one later.” You open the next letter and find that it is a little bit more interesting, but you do the same thing – stuff it back into the envelope and put it back inside the mailbox. Other mail you pull out and don’t even bother reading – it just goes straight back inside the mailbox. And sure enough, your mailbox is soon crammed full of a combination of hundreds of unopened and unread letters plus hundreds of opened and read or partially read letters.
But it gets worse. You don’t just use your mailbox to receive and hold letters, but also to track your calendar items. You reach in deep and pull out a handful of papers with important dates and pull out a handful of papers with important dates and events written on them, including a few that have come and gone without you even noticing or remembering. And, of course, you also use your mailbox as a task list, so you’ve got all kinds of post-it notes in there with your to-do items scrawled all over them.
But we aren’t done yet. Even though you feel guilty and kind of sick every time you open your mailbox, you still find yourself checking your mail constantly. Fifty or sixty times a day you stop whatever else you are doing, you venture down the driveway, and reach your hand inside to see if there is anything new.
It is absurd, right? Your life would be total chaos. And yet that is exactly how most people treat their email. It is chaotic, with no rules or procedures to control it. What do you need? You need a system.
That’s from Do More Better by Tim Challies, which I recently audiobooked.He follows this picture with a practical strategy for taming your email and making it a source of productivity instead of a source of confusing and stress.
Do More Better is the second book on productivity I’ve gone through, and it’s the better of the two in my opinion. I recommend it for a short, very practical, theologically sound guide to increasing your productivity. Maybe in year I’ll post and say how Challies’ principles are helping me. If you try it, let me know how it goes for you…