My smart colleague Dr. Wendy Wyatt passed along an opinion piece published earlier this fall in the Star Tribune. She knew I would like and applaud it. And indeed, the content was such that I can’t quite shake it from my digital-age brain. In fact, every ding of new email, log-in prompt and face lit up by a smart phone around campus brings my attention back to Chris Anderson’s commentary, “You’ve got mail! (Which means you’ve got demands).”
I mostly share his opinions, and they have come to claim a place in the front of my tech-stretched mind. With the new year nearly upon us, it seems timely to ask if Anderson might have put his finger on not only a profound problem but also a rather brilliant solution – one that can help all of us with an email inbox make sure next year is better than last. Could we be happier and healthier if we become better e-mailers? Sounds easier than losing 15 pounds!
Anderson’s day begins, like mine and likely yours, with a glance at his inbox: “A sample might include a message from the colleague of a friend about his startup venture. Another is about a staff issue. A third is a discussion, copied to six people, about an upcoming charitable event.”
He goes on, and this is where I started getting giddy and wanted to know more. I can’t stop thinking, “Oh my goodness. He’s pinpointed the problem to which I need a solution … as does, it seems, almost every adult, friend, student, colleague, administrator, staff, parent and pal I know.” He writes:
“These e-mails have nothing in common — except that none of their issues had been on my agenda that morning. I don’t even know one of the senders. But although it took only a few minutes to read these notes, I suddenly feel pressure to develop coherent thoughts on complex questions regarding someone else’s business, office politics and world peace. It’s barely 8 a.m., and I’m already drowning in e-mail. My day’s priorities have been commandeered. And more missives keep pouring in, including tweets, Google Plus notifications, Facebook status updates and instant messages. A fire hose of information all day long.”