The email box lurks
red flags pointed at my eyes
Click. I am elsewhere.
I have a mixed relationship with email these days. I love it and it exhausts me. The problem is not spam. Google is quite good at filtering out the complete garbage. Most of the emails I actually see are ones full of useful and/or interesting things. The problem is that there are so many emails and the polite thing to do is to answer all of them. Which I really want to do. I want to give every single email a full, complete, considered answer. This is why so many of them sit in my mailbox for weeks on end. I keep trying to find a space to craft the right answer. Alternately, the emails sit because they have tasks attached. The email to say “here is your contract” is quite simple to write, but it requires me to first have created a contract, which is quite complex and thinky. “I’d love to do lunch” is easy to say, but then requires me to consult our schedules to see when such an event could actually happen. So the emails sit. They sit because they matter to me and I want to get them right. Of course they also generate waves of guilt. The more messages I have waiting the more guilt I feel. I don’t like to have people waiting on me. Logically I know these people are not sitting at their mailboxes feeling disappointed that I have not replied yet, but it feels that way.
My email box has filters. Messages are automatically shunted into folders based on where they came from. This system became critically necessary as Facebook, Twitter, and my blog all email me to tell me things. Usually they are happy things “Someone followed you!” “You have a comment!” Other times they are annoying things “Did you know that this friend of yours is also friends with this other friend of yours and they played the same game today?” Facebook is a little bit like that kid who doesn’t have a full deck of social clues, but who is dying for attention. And yet sometimes Facebook tells me things I need to know. “Book signing next week for that cool person you like!” Quarantining each message source lets me address them when I’m ready to instead of constantly being bombarded in my inbox. It helps.
I also filter according to roles. All of the Schlock mail goes through me first and it has its own folder. I answer the basic stuff and pass along to Howard the happy stuff and the complicated stuff. Conventions also get their own folder. This is particularly critical when I’m helping coordinate multiple convention appearances simultaneously. It is rather embarrassing to email the wrong guest liaison with a question that doesn’t apply. Right now I’m helping coordinate eight different convention appearances, six of which will take place between now and August. Tags and folders help me keep it all straight. Then of course, there are the emails relating to book printing. In order to answer emails about book printing I have to think like an accountant and scheduler. In order to answer convention emails I have to think like a scheduler and talent wrangler. In order to answer the Schlock emails I have to think like a business manager, a customer support rep, and an archival expert. Switching gears makes my head spin a bit.
The system I’ve got works more or less. Every so often I have to add new filters or create new tags/folders. When the box fills up and threatens to overwhelm me with guilt, I somehow muster the energy to plow through dozens of different emails in a single morning. This morning needs to be that morning, which is naturally why I just spent thirty minutes writing a post about answering email instead. Avoidance and I are familiar friends though we don’t like to admit it. Time to go answer email.