I Have An eMail Hoarding Problem. Maybe.

This morning I’m on my way to work and listening to the book Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths.  Sitting at a stoplight I hear something that I’m pretty certain Brian Christian was sharing specifically for me.

Brian cited research done by Steve Whittaker at UC Santa Cruz back in 1996 regarding email overload.  When asked “Is sorting email a waste of time?” the answer was an emphatic yes.

email foldersReally?  I’ve spent an immeasurable amount of time in my life categorizing and sorting my work email and personal email into digital files and folders.  It’s all there organized and ready to find at a moments notice.  Folders are set up by topic, sender, or the class they’re related to. Even personal notes and correspondence are kept in their perfect place.

Want to know what my wife wanted me to pick up at the store back on October 9th, 2017?  I’ve got that for you in the “Michelle” folder – two red peppers, green onions, Tostitos, and some Mexican Style Cheese, preferably the Sargento kind.

The eTickets and QR Code for the Phillies game we saw while in Philadelphia for ISTE back in 2015?  I’ve got them too.  And you never now when you’re going to need those again, right?  Which is, probably, never.

Why have I spent so much time putting electronic mail messages into a paper style file folder format?  The reality is that the one time I actually do need to find an old archived email I’ll just use the search tool in my Apple Mail.

Could it be that this sense of order, this going through the motions of reading and filing that gives me a sense of control with a communication format that often feels out of control?  Or is this a complete waste of time?

The issue with time is that it is a commodity.  Just like money, we spend it and save it and try to use it as sparingly as possible when at all possible.  But, unlike money, it’s finite.  We can’t actually “save time” like we “save money”.  There’s no way to cash it in later.  Even if I were to “save” hours of time at work every week by not sorting my email there’s no way to bank it.  There’s no way to open the fictitious Time Saving App on my phone while laying on my death bed and say “let’s use that 12 hours I saved not sorting my email and go for long walk with my grandkids before I croak.”

Time is the commodity used to measure both order and chaos.  If I saved the time sorting email now would I just waste it in the future sorting through a disorganized email inbox looking for some all important email or document?  The question now becomes is an unsorted inbox really chaos?

No. Email inboxes are digital and easily searched.  This is why we have technology, a tool that makes our life easier. So here’s my restoration resolution for today to make life easier.  I will no longer sort or file my email.  I’m going to read it.  Delete it if it’s not important.  Leave it if it is.  And in the rare chance that I do need something in the future and can’t find it, I’ll go for a walk.

In conclusion, if you like this blog post or have any questions, please don’t email me about it.

For an opposing viewpoint and more information about using email efficiently check out “A Super-Efficient Email Process” by Peter Bregman from the Harvard Business Review.


Book Review – Artemis by Andy Weir

220px-Artemis-Andy_Weir_(2017)If you’ve read Andy Weir’s first book, or seen the movie The Martian, then you know what you’re in for with this one too.  And if you haven’t?  Then you’re missing out.  Learn more about Andy Weir at his website: andyweirauthor.com

Weir is an unconventional author and simultaneously a gifted story teller.  With Artemis he takes us to the moon, literally.  Our main character is Jasmine Bashara, a young Arabic girl living in lunar colony in the late 2080’s.  As the daughter of a welder and a self-made smuggler Jasmine soon finds herself mixed up in a conspiracy that threatens to take down the entire lunar tourism industry.

Much like The Martian, the reader is propelled through an adventure for survival full of cliff hanger events and near death experiences that challenge our protagonist’s abilities for problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.  This book is the perfect fit for a high school class in both Language Arts and STEM environments.  I congratulate Mr. Weir for flawlessly threading his literary expertise with real science to make a “Science Fiction” fun ride in a vehicle that also teaches vital 21st century skills to our future job corps.

Order your copy of The Martian from Amazon in hardback, paperback, or Kindle edition.

Book Recommendation – How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price

After hearing 10% Happier Podcast host Dan Harris interview Catherine Price, author of the new book How To Break Up With Your Phone, I knew right away it was time to buy this book.

breakup-with-your-phone-4-ht-thg-180320_hpEmbed_1x1_992Catherine shared some great ideas on how to control your device urges, but my favorite is the rubber band.  Try putting a rubber band around your phone so that each time you reach for it you’ll be reminded by that strange grippy band to reflect on why you’re reaching – Do you need directions on a map? Checking the schedule? Contact someone? Or… are you just bored and need a little dopamine rush from some Facebook likes or a quick scroll through Instragam?  That rubber band can be the “speedbump” you need to catch yourself before falling into that smart phone black hole.

Catherine shares more ideas in the podcast but also dives deeper into the real problem that we have with our phone and asks the tough questions about what we can do about it.  Learn more about Catherine and her book How To Break Up With Your Phone in the podcast embedded below from Stitcher, and be sure to follow Catherine on Twitter.


UCET 2018 Keynote Speaker Manoush Zomorodi

This year at the UCET Conference we were lucky to have journalist, podcaster, and author Manoush Zomorodi as our Keynote Speaker.  Manoush is the author of Bored and Brilliant and the host of the podcast “Note To Self”.

bored and brilliant

Over the past year I’ve enjoyed listening to Manoush and her guests talk about everything from the show Black Mirror, to the Replika App, and even interview other podcasters like Dan Harris of “10% Happier”