Friday, April 11, 2008

INBOX 1,314

When I first started working as a PM, back in the golden days of .com boomage, I was able to keep track of my work by making a list on a piece of 8.5 x11 paper that I folded into quarters. I spent 15 minutes updating it each day and congratulated myself for completing all my tasks.

Since then the word has gone through some pretty heavy change… the Cookie Monster is on a health diet, Starbuck is a girl, the Red Socks have won a world series...twice!, …whatever. Project Managers are all about the change right? Change is good because it indicates evolution. My old system of keeping things on that tiny square of paper because no longer viable because I had achieved a level of professional achievement/idiocy, where I was allowed to try and manage 13 fully active projects at one time. Thank God for my Handspring Visor!

Anyway, time marches on… we get busier. I am now able to record 4 different programs simultaneously on my DVR… I can record more soccer and baseball than I could ever watch. This is a good thing – right?

At this very moment, I have a list of tasks that must be done today and it is 3 pages long. I have 1,314 emails in my inbox for work and 143 emails in my DO THIS RIGHT AWAY folder in my email for work. I also have 1,254 emails in my PMI Inbox and I just don't even bother checking my personal email anymore because it is too depressing. This is especially disturbing since this is where my JOTTs go.

Oh, and did I mention that all of the above is actually really good. Things used to be much worse. Then I watched the Merlin Mann video on Inbox Zero. This is about as close to Zero as I seem to be able to get.

A few years ago when my beloved Palm T3 died an unnatural death at the hands of the technology assassins/Geek Squad at Best Buy I gave up my beloved Palm/Agendus combination and started looking for a new way to manage my tasks. The journey led me to iGTD, which led me to David Allen. I bought his book, Getting Things Done, over a year ago. I read it every chance I get. I'm now up to Chapter 2.

There are also the podcasts, which are in various stages of completion that I keep trying to finish and post.

Clearly, I'm not so much with the efficient right now… or maybe I am just too over committed to be able to be efficient.. Either way, this seems very much at odds with my (chosen doesn't seem the right word) profession. I'm am a Project Manager. I am supposed to be the bringer of order to the world of chaos. If you took one look inside any of the six folders on my desktop that are all labeled DESKTOP STUFF, you'd become painfully aware how much I am not that when it comes to managing myself.

So, today… a question…

If any of the above resonates, especially if you are one of those people who openly mock your co-workers when they start in with 'OH NO! I have 500 emails in my inbox", how are you dealing with it? (And no, hiding in a closet crying in to a cheap box of wine at the end of the day is not "dealing")

According to the futurists and science fiction writers, we are headed towards a world where machines will develop the ability to be sentient and then take over the world because of our dependence on technology. I'm starting to wonder if the true evil of technology is that it allows is to move so quickly, that we lose the ability to keep up with ourselves.


  1. Have I let let you in on the manifesto-in-progres about my post-data experiments? I have created a hierarchy of ring-tones/emails starting with my two bosses and Bea (that makes three bosses.) Everything else I let bubble to the top of urgency. Like most things, a natural order takes over. Of course, I have the luxury of not having any clients per se. I also do not carry ultra-mobile data, so people do not expect insta-response to me.

  2. ultra-mobile data devices that is...

  3. Ultra mobile data meaning a windows phone that gets email from four different accounts and has an unlimited data plan so people can find you where ever and whenever you are, unless you have enough self control to turn the addictive albatross off?

    I'm unfortunately all about ultra mobile.

    Doesn't the ring tones end up being about the same as me color coding or prioritizing my tasks? You'll still end up with a whole lot of really important ring tones... but what may be worse, songs that once were like old friends to you will become the unwitting harbingers of stress and angst.

  4. Aha. This is where I got sidetracked yesterday on your blog...I've always been a naturally organized person, which is probably how I ended up in project management. But, at about the time you wrote this post, I was experiencing this issue of email overwhelm and not sure how to manage this new firehose of information.