Online timesinks

The Wall Street Journal has an article up today (via 43folders) about managing your e-mail, which, if it isn’t anything groundbreaking, nonetheless usefully rounds up all the usual productivity experts for handy quotations.   In particular, Merlin Mann reminds us, yet again, that “checking email and not doing anything about it is the worst habit.”

This is my worst time management sin.  (Um, besides blogging.)

On days when I’m with The Little Man, for instance, I will use “let me just look at my e-mail for a second” as an excuse for a break, or, while I’m doing some chore on those days, I’ll extend it by looking at e-mail.  So I *see* the messages, but I rarely actually answer them then, because it’s time to play again.  By the time I can actually answer the messages properly, there’s more new ones–sometimes pushing the unanswered, but read, messages right off the screen, into the undifferentiated morass of “read, but unfiled” messages.  Whether those messages get answered is really a function of the level of crisis on any given day.
(While typing this, I clicked “refresh inbox” in order to pause and figure out how to say something.  It really is a disease.)

(Damn.  I did it again, on my other e-mail account.)

This semester, A and I are trying out a new strategy of scheduling our time much more explicitly.  Once we get our hours divided up* correctly, I’ll have to fill in specific e-mail times and try to stick to them.

*We divide up the hours such that someone is always with The Little Man.  So, there’s a complicated heuristic about prioritizing time: Who’s teaching, who’s got a conference, who’s got a writing deadline, who likes to work late, who likes to get up psychotically early and work, etc.  It’s not pretty.

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One Response to Online timesinks

  1. I’m very familiar with that kind of ‘complicated heuristic.’ Teaching trumps meetings, meetings trump office hours, office hours trump class prep, and during the academic year, everything trumps research…

    As for the other, I call it ‘e-mail attention deficit disorder’ or E-MADD. 🙂

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