Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Resolutions: Email and writing more

I haven't really done resolutions in a few years, besides little fun thing, like ... well, do more fun things! For example, in 2011 it was take a trip to the Grand Canyon, and we did!

I wasn't going to do any this year, either. But, after reading Meg Bear's post on email management, which was in line with earlier email advice I'd gotten from Rich Burridge, I realize I really have to get my email under control.

I've been notoriously bad about this for years. Since the new year rang in, I have deleted half of the emails from my personal account, which only has a web interface so it's a tedious process to find irrelevant and unwanted emails.  My personal email box is now down to 1000 messages (66% of my quota). That's good - it's a start.

But, my work email... boy. It's bad.

It was a mess when I worked at Sun. I tried many mail readers to see if it would help, finally settling on pine - which is, at least, quick and dirty and easy to delete things.  Alas, my Sun.Com inbox still swelled up to 4-5000 emails.

Determined to not let it happen again, I declared "email bankruptcy" in February 2010 when we became Oracle employees.  My INBOX is still there, and I've occasionally gone and dug something out of it, but it's mostly ignored.

Things started off really well at Oracle. I switched to Thunderbird, which had better folder support and integration with Oracle's Beehive infrastructure. I kept my inbox down to just "to-do" type items, under 100 messages, for many months. Then I went on vacation. So, then I was keeping it around 300 messages. Still, totally manageable.

Then, I got busy on some projects. Then, more travel. Then, I became a manager. Then, I was involved in a very intense project to migrate our Sun defects from the Sun priority bug tracking system to the Oracle Classic system. That involved many subteams and hundreds of emails coming into my inbox every day, along with my normal workload.  In the middle of all of that, I got my appendix out.

Now my inbox is hovering around 6000 messages.

I am missing things. People send me emails with weird subjects that I delete without reading, only to later find out that the message contained a specific question for me. Things I really want to respond to are quickly buried, never to be seen again.

Filtering doesn't work, as I never open the folders those things go into (though, it was useful for me to then go and unsubscribe from some aliases when I realized I could live without those updates).

Now, how do I get out?

Even trying to keep to the "zero-inbox" going forward isn't going well. I routinely have 8-10 emails left at the end of the day that require too much time to reply to (like review a large document) or require action very soon.

So, those of you that do zero-inbox, did you ever have such a hole? How do you escape?

For 2013 I'd like to practice better email hygiene.

Once I get my email under control, I hope I'll have more time to write here.  For example, I've been tasting many outstanding beers lately, but no time to write them up.

Help! :-)


  1. I filter everything not directly addressed to me into separate folders (1728 total, 1157 of which get directly filtered to) and I am ruthless about keeping my inbox to a minimum (current count: 2) no matter what it takes. The biggest key is learning which folders I need to read vs which I can skim. I've never been a manager, but I will hazard a guess that delegating more will be part of your solution. :-)

    1. I really like the idea of a filter for emails addressed *to me*! that would actually be useful for catching those weird subject messages, though I worry about missing things in context (as there's often a mail thread to a bigger group and then someone will send just me a question or thought that I should know before responding to bigger thread). Thanks!