It is SOOOO hot that it is physically impossible for Person nor Beast to get anything done. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.
Actually, no: I’m determined to come unstuck.
The past few weeks have put me into a kind of coma. I get up, walk the dog, feed the dog, fart (interminably!) with the pool, then plop down in front of the computer and…and…yeah: sit there. Allll day long. Reading the news. Corresponding with friends. Reading the news some more. Reading those links that Google sticks in the pages upon which it forces you to rest when you enter a search. Writing a blog post (which is akin to writing a diary entry). Posting it to Facebook. Cruising Facebook interminably. Playing Internet games. Reading the news some more. Playing some Internet games some more. Fighting with the hazy swimming pool some more. Writing a Quora post or two. Driving to the grocery store or some odious appointment when forced to it. Fight with the pool again. Playing Internet games some more, again….and so on until around 6 p.m., when it’s time to feed the dog again, wrestle with the pool again, and waste some more time watching PBS news.
In short: I get exactly NOTHING done.
So…something’s gotta happen here. Decided it should be A Schedule: Set aside specific periods of time in which to do things. Write Ella’s Story, which I dropped and forgot about as I sank to the bottom of Lake Comatose. Post Fire-Rider segments, which also have languished. (Interestingly, revenues from Amazon have risen, suggesting the idea of posting freebie chapters from the various books actually does boost sales.)
And today I did, somehow, manage to drag myself around to preparing, finding images for, and posting Part VI of Fire-Rider and then posting links on Facebook and Twaddle.
Sounds great, eh?
Except that already tomorrow a fly will drop into that ointment: Not one but two workmen are slated to show up between 10 and noon. If one of them doesn’t soak up the entire day, the other will. Together they’re guaranteed to put the eefus on the “hour-a-day” scheme.
The pool is still foggy. A little better than it was this morning, but still a disaster area. I figured out it has something to do with the filter, which is operating in a suspicious manner.
The hand lesion that was found to be on the verge of flipping over into a squamous cell carcinoma is not healing. It hurts. It itches. And this morning I find a white spot — a very itchy white spot — right at the location of the original white nasty itchy actinic keratosis that send me to the dermatologist in the first place. And it’s growing. Growing very fast.
So, come Monday I’ll have to traipse halfway to Yuma AGAIN — just the drive there and back consumes almost two hours. This thing is going to have to be removed surgically…I can feel that in my bones. And how many gerzillions of hours will that consume? Don’t even bother to try to estimate.
Tomorrow morning will be consumed with trying to explain to the pool guy what has been going on — complete with photos — and, probably at the same time,. trying to explain to the Cox dude what the goddamn VoiP modem they stuck on my computer did yesterday, dragging me offline in the middle of an Amazon movie.
In the meantime, here’s something you can do for pore, pore pitiful me… 😀
This post at Quora is racking up more “likes” than any squib I’ve ever stuck up there. How’s about you visit that link, enjoy the anecdote (true story! 100 percent!), and if you so choose, click “like” at the bottom of the post? The thing is inching toward 1,000 likes…and I would get quite a kick out of it if it actually did reach that coveted goal. Share it on Facebook and Twitter and whatever other platform you haunt.
In the time-wasting preoccupation department, how cool would it BE to rack up 1.000 votes for that post?
Moving on: after about three hours of sleep last night, I cannot hold my eyes open even though the sun has yet to slide beneath the humid, hot horizon. And so…away….
Hah! This morning I put off the print-on-demand vendor’s time-suck demand until Wednesday, the next day I have scheduled for diddling away time in largely unproductive frustration and hassle. “On my way out the door to an all-day meeting,” said I.
That would be an all-day meeting with a computer keyboard…
So how did the first day of theTime-Suck-Control Scheduling Strategy go? Not too badly. Not great, really, but it was more or less successful. I set aside yesterday to do nothing but write (around the household chores, the pool maintenance, the fricasseeing plant survival chores…oh well). The entire day was devoted to jump-starting the second bookoid of the Biker Babe series, which is suffering from a low battery.
And yeah, I did get through a scene. And I figured out the problem: Biker Babe is turning into something different from a tale of two people f**king like rabbits as they scurry across the landscape. It’s actually turning into a romance. Yesterday Bobbi (the babe) met Biker’s deceased wife’s best friend, a motherly sort who, devolving into a kind of female mentor, advises her to treat Biker kindly and remarks that for the first time since the Deceased croaked over, “that spark in his eye” has returned.
Problem is, Bobbi is a denizen of academe, something she keeps hidden from the widower’s friends. She’s socialized to feel an intense hypersensitivity to sexist slights and also to resist being stuck in the traditional female role. This is at odds with the biker culture, in a funny way. (Not funny ha-ha, either.) She does not much like being called “babe,” nor does she appreciate being told to sit and wait while he takes up a challenge to beat one of his pals at billiards.
As you can see, trouble is about to rear its ludicrous head…
At any rate, these developments are slowing down the scribbling pace, because setting up the situation distracts from…yes, the rabbitting around.
Today I’ll have to move on to another story, which I’m pretty sure I can crank in one day without too much trouble. Rabbits are pretty easy to describe in action…
The second whiteboard — the one in the office — turns out to be a handy aid in the Time-Suck Control Department. The main whiteboard, which has a calendar and space for to-do’s, resides on the door I have to pass through to get to the car. This forces me to look at the things I’m supposed to be accomplishing now, today. I’ve pressed the second one into service as a place to list time-suck chores.
Writing chores appear on the out-the-door white-board and time-suck chores on the office whiteboard. So, things are less likely to be forgotten, but they’re separated out and assigned to specific 14-hour time slots.
Soon we’ll see if this really works. Tomorrow is another writing day, but Luz will be here for four or five hours. That means today I have to shovel the pigpen a bit, and although she personally is quiet and not inclined to bother me with socializing, having somebody banging around the house still is a distraction.
Wednesday is assigned to time sucks, but the morning will be trashed by a visit to the dentist. I expect to be pretty frustrated and upset by that visit, since he’s about to announce that he’s going to empty my bank account and torture me with a new series of pains and discomforts. Like I haven’t had enough of those of late… Whether I’ll get anything done after that is anyone’s guess. A lot of time-sucks remain to be done on that day:
•Post Fire-Rider, Book II (this entails registering an ISBN, a true time-suck!) • Read my friend Ken’s suggested links on book marketing; distill new ideas for action • Write and post an article on LinkedIn by way of attracting attention to the publishing ventures • Get act together and create a more effective marketing plan; contact a writer who’s doing pretty well & ask for appointment to discuss her strategy • Send receipt to editorial client • Build e-mail list of people to pester about new publications • Start a Pinterest site • Create a Writers P&S site on Facebook (ugh!) • Pester the Web guru about getting the sites up and adding lost plug-ins • Figure out what vendor (above) is talking about and come up with some sort of fix, if needed.
Getting all that done in one afternoon, after the dentist’s appointment soaks up the morning? Highly questionable. And therein lies the reason I need someone to help with (read “to do“) the marketing stuff.
Well, actually, the first grutch of the day is not about the endless series of roadblocks to the writing venture. It’s about my usual hobbyhor$e, money.
Dammit. I went in to get my teeth cleaned yesterday and the (wonderful!) dental tech informed me that she found a crack in a molar.
Make that ANOTHER crack. I already have four crowns holding broken teeth together. So that will be ANOTHER THOUSAND BUCKS out of my already impoverished funds!
Quitting the damn teaching job may have been a mistake…
I’m not convinced: in my experience, a cracked tooth hurts. This elicits no pain at all. So I expect it’s a superficial crack in the enamel. Maybe it can be fixed with bonding. One way or another, it represents MORE money drain and MORE time suck.
Time suck seems to be the story of my life.
Yesterday I spent the entire damn day at the campus computer commons, because Kindle will not read & convert ANY linked table of contents generated on ANY Macintosh computer. So I had to drag TWENTY-THREE FILES out there and convert every TofC on a PC. While I was at it, I had to (try to!) correct an error that happened in some of the Fire-Rider files, causing images to pop up in the middle of the TofC.
Then while I was there, I called up the cookbook and discovered that the Wyrd “style” I used to format the all-caps design flourish in first-of-section paragraphs came over as fucking MICROSCOPIC TYPE! As it develops, what you see in Kindle’s “Preview” tool ain’t what you get!
To fix that, I’ve got to get into an HTML file from an unzipped bundle and screw around with that without causing any more chaos. I do not KNOW how to zip and unzip files in Mac, although I do know it can be done. So that will represent another whole afternoon wasted.
Thank god I didn’t do it in any of the 125+ recipes in there! There are only about a half-dozen initial paragraphs with this little quirk. But it’s still going to take time…I find most of my electronic time-waste is entailed in fiddling with code and crap and not with anything that does anything even remotely creative.
Today the ENTIRE DAY is going to be absorbed. In 14 minutes I have to leave for my early-morning bidness group meeting. Then fly back into town, let the dogs out for five minutes, and fly north up the freeway to meet the designer, who has the remaining Fire-Rider covers ready plus a bunch of other stuff. Then race home, bolt a few bites of lunch, and race back out to the Mayo for an afternoon checkup with the gut surgeon.
Tomorrow is mostly gone: Meeting with a would-be writer in the morning — mentoring, more than anything, unless I can persuade the guy to write porn and unless he can actually do it. Then meet a friend who wants to introduce me to another writer over happy hour — that will blow the evening. So, only a few hours will be open in the afternoon tomorrow.
Saturday is mostly gone: West Valley writer’s group shindig occupies the ENTIRE afternoon. I happen to really like this group, though — it’s the only group of amateur writers I’ve ever seen that’s not mostly comprised of flakes and nut cases. They’re very professional, very together, and many of them are pretty successful at this game. So it’s fun to meet with them even though their events take place halfway to Yuma.
Yes, I knew it was going to take some time to catch up with the ten or twelve months lost to the medical disruptions. But y’know, this wrestling match has gone on since the first of the month. I haven’t finished the second Biker Babe book because literally I haven’t had more than an hour or two uninterrupted in which to focus on it, not when I’m not so damn exhausted I can’t hold my head up.
Cripes. Thirteen minutes to blast-off. Gotta get the dogs in and gather all the junk and get out the door. Bye!
Yeah, I know: Evan and my other east-of-center friends will be thinking “Yup, the woman lists to the left!” But that tendency notwithstanding, I’m here to testify to the endless benefits of making lists to organize your time and beat yourself into finishing those tasks you just. don’t. WANT. to. do.
By this morning I’d only just started to climb out of the hole I’d dug for myself by falling behind on a single regular chore: grading student papers. That slippage led to a cascade—an avalanche, we might say—of missed deadlines and stuff that wasn’t getting done. Last night I read copy until 2:00 a.m.; then overslept until 7:00 this morning, meaning I didn’t get breakfast before M’hijito showed up with pesky Charley the Puppy, which meant I didn’t get the pool backwashed or the plants watered or the dishes washed or this post written while there was still time to work in relative peace.
With that little bouncer underfoot, precious little gets done. And by now a vast lot needs to get done.
Well, after tying the end of Charley’s long lead to a doorknob, I figured I’d better get organized or nothing would get done: ever again! Hence, the disorganized organizer’s secret weapon: a list on a yellow pad:
√ Refill hummingbird feeders
Enter debits in personal and corporate books √ Read the last straggling student paper √ Water plants √ Read new client’s chapter; ….√ Enter preliminary edits in two pages, timing the effort ….√ Write assessment, commentary, and estimate ….√ Compose agreement letter ….√ Send all of the above to him under cover of an e-mail √ Write October ABPA newsletter
Write new CE Desk website copy
Update LinkedIn copy √ Find out if there’s a LinkedIn badge that could go on new CE Desk website
Contact former client; ask advice on marketing √ RSVP to networking opportunity √ Remember to enter dog training appointment in calendar
Clean floors √ Write FaM copy
Well, of course I came nowhere near getting all those things done. In fact, only the items that absolutely positively HAD to get done got done.
For some reason, writing down the things you need to do does something to the brain. It weirdly motivates you to perform, for reasons I don’t understand. Maybe the satisfaction of checking off yet another obnoxious chore—DONE!—releases just enough happy-chemicals into the brain to keep you going.
I can think of a thousand things I’d rather do than read another student paper. And I especially resent reading late papers, even if the kid has what looks like a legit excuse.
I am sick of watering plants.
I’ve already backwashed the pool twice this week, which is two times too many.
I never want to write the mind-numbing newsletter.
And the prospect of reading client copy (and constructing an agreement letter and writing an assessment that made sense) plus writing the newsletter was enough to send me off on a cruise aboard the Good Ship Google, a fugue that would guarantee the nonaccomplishment of all the above.
Tomorrow I have to teach all day, race home, feed the pup, bolt down dinner, and then shoot out the door to choir practice. So none of the other undone things on today’s list will get done. The gritty floors will continue to stain the bottoms of my feet gray. The books will fall further out of date. More bills will come in today’s and tomorrow’s mail and not be entered in said books. Cassie’s dust allergy will continue to make her eyes run. The Copyeditor’s Desk website will remain out of date. LinkedIn will remain out of date. The recently former client may shuffle off this mortal coil before I get in touch with him.
But at least the worst of today is done.
Mary Kay Ash wrote, in her long-ago autobiography, that listing was THE way she got herself organized and moving forward when she started her business. And, she said, she continued to write and follow lists throughout her formidable career.
She advised her acolytes to write the next day’s to-do list on the bathroom mirror, in lipstick.
Why not? Use the stuff as a marking pen, and you’ll buy all that much more Mary Kay lipstick!
Messy, but you can be sure it worked. It’s hard to ignore a to-do list that’s between you and your morning makeup. You have to see it as you stumble into the bathroom to use the terlet the first thing in the morning. What a reminder.
She also suggested putting the chore you least want to do at the top of the list. For her, it was cold-calling. Her theory was, once you got the don’t-wannas out of the way, the rest of the day would be downhill skiing.
And there certainly is something to that: I find I tend to put off all my chores when there’s some major don’t-wanna lurking. Because I don’t want to do that one thing, I don’t want to get started at all, because sooner or later I’ll have no choice but to face the aversive task. So I don’t do anything at all.
Organizing your tasks seems to organize your time, as if my magic. Automatically, so to speak. And now it’s 8:00 p.m. and I need to schedule this post to go online tomorrow ayem, fix something to eat, feed Cassie, finish reading the current ARC (author’s review copy–a type of page proof), and go to bed.
Enter debits in personal and corporate books
Write new CE Desk website copy
Update LinkedIn copy
Contact former client; ask advice on marketing
Meet three classes
Go to choir
Read draft stoont papers before going to bed
Write FaM copy
That’s it. This year I have one goal and only one goal: find a way to manage my time so as to get most or all of my work done and engineer several hours every day for exercise and healthy relaxation.
I’ve suspected for quite a while that one reason the belly has been a mess is the 12 to 17 hours a day I sit in front of a computer screen, seven days a week. As I sit here coping with the cascades of chores that each and every action spawns—and following my whim across the hills and dales of the Internet—the house gets dirtier and dirtier, the dog grows shaggy and shabby, the yard goes feral, and, on days that I don’t have to go out the door, I neglect even to take a shower or brush my teeth.
When M’hijito came over to spend the afternoon and evening on Christmas Eve, I had to get up and race around the minute my feet hit the ground. Along about 6:30, the dog threw up all over the bed and me—merry Christmas! So first crack off the bat, it was haul all the bedding out to the washer, scrub the barf off myself, clean the floor, and treat the sickly dog.
Since I’d managed to get a fair amount of housework done the previous day, the time between dawn and my son’s arrival was occupied with preparing the elaborate Mayan bean recipe I planned to take to the Christmas Eve choir potluck, which takes place between the 8:30 service and the midnight service, and then with a little light cleaning and dinner prep. This was all surprisingly relaxing, and for the first time in God only knows how long, my stomach didn’t hurt.
That confirmed my suspicion: getting off my duff, walking away from the computer early in the day and not going back to it has serious curative powers. The kind of work I do is endlessly frustrating, the sort of niggling little tasks that seem to beget scores of new tasks before a job can get done. Christmas Eve, for example, I sat down to do one little chore associated with next semester’s courses: enter in Google Calendar the dates and times I’d devote to grading next semester’s student papers. Ought to take about ten minutes, right? An hour and a half later I was still at it.
Fooling with a computer is like eating Crackerjacks. You can’t just do one thing. You start on task A and then discover that you need to do task B before you can complete task A, but task B leads to task C, which you know you’d better do right now or else you’re going to forget it, but task C entails task D, which you now have to do to make task C work and then you’re reminded you did forget task E so you’d better do that while you’re at it and…before you know it, three hours have passed, a beautiful afternoon is gone, you haven’t brushed your teeth or fed the dog or even pulled on a pair of bluejeans, and you’re running late for whatever you’re supposed to be doing in the real world. Like Crackerjacks, it’s bad for your teeth.
To say nothing of bad for your health and bad for your sanity. This has got to stop.
The question is, HOW? Except for about six hours a week spent standing in front of a classroom, almost all my work is done online. So I don’t do anything unless I sit down in front of a computer, and because of the self-replicating effect of computer tasks, the minute I do sit down in front of a computer, I’m trapped like a bug in flypaper.
It seems to me the solutions fall into two categories: drastic and not-so-drastic.
a. Quit blogging. I love to write and it’s gratifying to know that somewhere out there someone wants to read my maunderings. But it’s obscenely time-consuming, and the sense that you’re in some sort of competition for page rank, Alexa rankings, traffic, ad revenues, and whatnot is absurd and destructive.
b. Take my classes completely offline. Abandon the online magazine writing course and stick with freshman comp. Junk the monstrously time-consuming, brain-blasting, hair-ripping Blackboard and do everything on paper. Don’t let students anywhere near a computer, and refuse to answer e-mail from the little darlings.
a. Never turn on the computer until after the dog is fed, the human is washed and fed, the house is picked up, and the human and the dog get at least an hour of exercise. In personal finance terms, this would be like paying yourself first—retrieving some healthy savings out of your budget before you start spending.
b. Set an alarm clock to go off after about two hours of crack-of-dawn work. At that point, stop working, get up and get going. If a blog post doesn’t go up in the morning, it just doesn’t go up.
c. Schedule blocks of time to do specific tasks.
We know that scheduling blocks of time for specific tasks works only marginally. If I’m not done with something by the end of its scheduled period, I’ll keep on working, consuming the planned free time with…yes, more bug-in-the-flypaper time! We know that if I finish a task before a block of time ends, it’s far more likely that I’ll start Stumbling or pick up some other computer-oriented project than that I’ll get up and clean house, clean me, or go out for some fresh air. So that’s off the list right now.
I suspect the alarm clock ruse will have the same effect: I’ll just turn the nuisance off and continue with whatever I’m doing.
The idea of resisting the computer until healthier things are done has its blandishments. The problem there is that it will cut into the number of hours left to plow through the daily 12 or 14 hours of work. This will lead to more impossibly late hours, which grows tedious. By 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., I’m so sick of working I start to hate the work itself.
I’m not real thrilled with the idea of junking Funny about Money. But it has to be said: that would return two or three hours a day to my life. Often I ask myself what else I’d be doing. But the answer is obvious: cleaning the Funny Farm, taking care of the garden and pool (which as we scribble needs to be backwashed), bicycling around the neighborhood, walking the dog, or climbing a mountain.
As for taking all my classes offline…hmmmm…. Grading papers electronically hugely speeds that dreary task; when I first started using Word’s “track changes” and “comments” functions, I found it took about 30% less time to read a set of papers online than it does to grade them by hand. At the time, however, my institution used FirstClass, a much simpler course management program than the bloatware that is Blackboard, and at one point I even built my own website in MS FrontPage and had students submit papers by e-mail. Blackboard should be renamed Blackhole, because that’s what it is: a black hole for instructor time. It vacuums up hours like a warp in the space-time continuum.
This semester instead of having the freshmen do most of their work online, I sent every one of their learning assignments over to the copy center and had them printed out as a gigantic course packet—59 pages, not counting the 12-page syllabus and the three-page calendar. Instead of having them do all that busywork…uhm, all those learning experiences through Blackboard, which requires me to look at the junk and pay students to do it in the currency of the classroom (grades), I’m going to make them do this stuff in the classroom and then go over it in class, forcing them to LOOK at it and discuss it. This will occupy a great deal of otherwise vacant class time and make them look twice at the exercises (when under normal circumstances they glance at the stuff once, through glazed eyes).
Instead of grading the stuff, I’m going to collect exercises at random, so they never know when they may or may not get a score for what they do in class. Raw fear should keep a few of them awake. And as the University of Phoenix does, I’m going to tell them that the exercises are there to help them succeed in the course, and that those who do the exercises will perform better on the (much more heavily!) graded assignments. This strategy cuts the number of columns in my grade book from 21 to 11. So that may be useful.
How to engineer this for a course that’s completely online, I don’t know. Because my tenured colleague, whose course this really is, wanted me to assign four full-length magazine articles instead of the two plus exploratory projects I’d built into the eight-week course, I dropped the drafting and peer reviewing stages, the cumulative daily brainstorming exercise, and the in-depth market research project. However, having discovered that like most beginning freelance writers these folks are stunningly stupid about crafting an article to fit a market, I had to build and include a market research assignment for each article. This left, despite the cuts, exactly the same number of assignments to grade as last semester: 15.
The solution to that, obviously, is to drop the online course. This would cut the total number of papers to grade from 36 to 31; the trade-off would be an extra three hours a week in class, plus commute time. Probably not worth it.
What to do?
Overall, I think the most conservative and reasonable strategy to try first is staying away from the computer until a few hours of living a life get done.
This will mandate that on some days, blog posts will not happen, or they won’t happen until late evening. But that may be a good thing: more readers seem to see and comment on posts that sit online for a couple of days. While content may still be king, when you’re cranking a post or more a day, you may actually be losing your readers in a fog of copy.
If that doesn’t work, then I’ll have to make a major change in the way things happen around here.
J. C. Leyndecker, Saturday Evening Post covers. Public domain. Layout found at Lines and Colors. Father Time with Baby New Year. Illustration from Frolic & Fun, 1897. Believed to be in the public domain.
Okay, now that the desk is shoveled off, the question is how to shovel out the incoming clutter in the e-mail in-box. Am I the only employee or quasi-employee of an institution that engages in an ongoing campaign to strafe the entire planet with pointless, irrelevant messages? You can’t block them, because some of them are very relevant, indeed. But those relevant messages come along once every three months. In between times, you’re hitting the “delete” button thousands of times.
Truly. Over a hundred messages come in every single day.
• The menu for the campus cafeteria at Phoenix College, where I do not now teach and have not taught for a good ten years.
• A chatty P.R. newsletter emanating from the Phoenix College president’s office.
• The weekly crime report from the Phoenix College campus cops.
• The program guide for the district’s low-wattage local cable station.
• Endless, endless, endless pitches for the district’s United Way campaign.
• Announcements for various public service courses and minicourses at campuses around the Valley (a “caregiver class” at Scottsdale; “Safe Space” training at Phoenix; Life-long Learning: “Preparing for Finals”).
• Reminders to hourly workers to submit their time & labor reports.
• A “Happy Thanksgiving” message from the district’s employee store (and BTW, they’re offering “special discounts for our valued MCCCD employees!”)
• A bottomless pit of employee training sessions (two sessions to help with the FSA online enrollment process, whatever that is).
• Announcements for stage, open-air, and athletic performances at every campus across the Valley.
• And scores of e-mails from individuals who just want to share with every employee in the vast district: someone sent a photo of Saturn; a coach crowed that the Paradise Valley girl’s soccer team won a championship and a dozen people sent kudos to every single soul on the college’s mailing list. Just this minute, one of my colleagues sent photos of a trip to Greece to everyone at his college.
Some of this stuff is apparently going out to more than one mailing list, and lucky me, I somehow got on two of them. About half of it arrives in duplicate.
Sifting through all this trash is amazingly time-consuming. You can’t just point and click “delete.” Your cursor has to come to rest on every. single. message, and of course when it does it opens the damn thing. When you’re busy and you have, say, 25 more papers to grade (as I do today), even a couple seconds per message is a distraction and a minor aggravation. I have enough minor aggravations in my day, thank you.
An occasional message is one that needs attention, but not now. If I let it sit on the server until I get time to deal with it, then it quickly sinks beneath the waves of the oncoming tsunami of junkmail.
MacMail allows you to sort incoming messages into various subdirectories, including the trash. If you send something to the “trash” directory on Apple’s servers, it gets deleted automatically every few days, which is nice. However, some of it, I don’t want to have deleted. The guy who sends out his hobby photos, for example, occasionally emits an important message that I don’t want to lose. And among all the chaff that comes from the district are job announcements. Yes. Announcements for real, paying jobs. I still do apply for full-time positions, even though it’s a forlorn hope.
The aggravation rises to the “major” level, though, when the confusion spawned by the constant static leads you to overlook messages that you do want to receive: student papers, e-mails from colleagues that matter (like the occasional valuable messages from the photo buff), incoming from clients, reminders from your calendar.
My answer to this conundrum has been to set up a passel of subsidiary in-boxes, direct certain classes of messages to those, and then check them every few days. If nothing that matters appears, I can then Command-A to select all and send them into the ether.
Most of these sub-mailboxes hold messages I need to hang onto for various reasons. E-mail to and from problem students, for example, needs to be kept until there’s no risk of any later repercussions. Some messages from clients ought not to go away for awhile. Some of the blog carnivals are now set up to forward submissions to the host’s personal in-box, an awful nuisance (and one reason,in addition to the astonishing workload, that I’ve quit hosting so often).
Two or three weeks ago I started marking e-mail addresses that send me totally irrelevant messages so that everything that comes from them goes straight to the trash on Apple’s server. This derails a lot…but it’s quite a chore, since an enormous number of offices and individual employees in the District send out nothing but trash. I’ve now marked fifty-six senders’ e-mail addresses this way! And more keep sifting in.
That doesn’t count the general announcements that are likely to contain job ads, which go into the “CC Announcements” box.
These automatic side-tracking boxes add to the drag-and-drop categories, such as “Act on These ASAP,” where I can stash things that I need or may need until I can get to them.
The goal is to leave the in-box only for those incoming messages that matter and can be dealt with right now and then deleted. This plan is working to get some of the trash out from under my nose. But it’s not perfect:
And I need to get up, feed the dog, feed myself, and start reading papers. 🙄