Here’s One Reason E-mail is So hard to Deal With – (Insight from Daniel Levitin, The Organized Mind)


Organized MindI think I will be thinking about the book The Organized Mind for quite some time.

Bob Morris just posted his (very helpful) review of this book to our blog today. I will present my synopsis of the book this Friday at our October First Friday Book Synopsis. And I’ll post my lessons and takeaways, probably later in the day on Friday.

Helpful book!

Here’s one of the great lines from the book — true, sad, pretty funny…

When the ten-year-old son of my neuroscience colleague Jeff Mogil was asked what his father does for a living, he responded, “He answers e-mails.”

I get that…

And, here is the problem with e-mail. The problem: e-mail arrives all.the.time! I “knew” this, but this book really brings it into stark focus. buried in email

And, though we follow rules (“check your e-mail only twice a day”), we cheat – constantly. Thus, at almost any time, our “focus” can be hijacked. Even if we decide to “answer it later,” it is on our mind now, always…

Again, from the book:

If you’re checking e-mail every five minutes, you’re checking it 200 times during the waking day. This has to interfere with advancing your primary objectives.

So, one thing I have done is reset my e-mail automatic check feature. I have added substantial time between “automatic checks.”

And, consider this:

There are also important differences between snail mail and e-mail on the receiving end. In the old days, the only mail we got came once a day, which effectively created a cordoned-off section of your day to collect it from the mailbox and sort it.

This sort of captures the dilemma, doesn’t it? In the old days, mail arrived once a day. And the expectation was that if you decided to respond, it would take a few days. This allowed time to ponder, reflect, craft a true appropriate response.

Now, the expectation is, read now, respond NOW – RIGHT NOW!, I‘M WAITING ON YOUR RESPONSE – RESPOIND NOW!!! No wonder we feel so stressed, so buried.

You think I’m exaggerating? Consider this paragraph about life at Apple, from the article ‘These People Are Nuts’: 2 Former Managers Reveal What Working For Apple Is Really Like:

Apple employees needed to be available 24/7: If you forwarded something to one of your people at 1 o’clock in the morning and they didn’t reply promptly, you got a little annoyed at them … When someone came into my office and said they wanna be a manager, I asked them, “How did you sleep last night?” And they said, “Oh, fairly well,” and I said, “Good, ’cause that’s the last good night’s sleep you’re gonna get.”

I admit it. I love e-mail. It is brilliant. It is wonderful. And yet, there are times I would like the person who invented it to be sentenced to meals of nothing but asparagus and lifelong reruns of bad television…

In other words, handling information overload is a challenge… maybe beginning with, and always including, e-mail management.

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