Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Declaration of the CP No. 2: Work related emails
I have many policies. Not everyone enjoys my policies, but they are important nonetheless. Sometimes I have a policy without even realizing it. Then when I figure out that I have the policy, I become glad of it and declare it officially.
I discovered such a policy this summer involving emails at work. I get hundreds of emails a week. Sometimes about a hundred a day, give or take a few. I read and respond to the ones that seem really important, and especially the ones that come from friends and friendly co-"workers." And, most of the time, emails that come from my boss and from my clients. The rest I open and then try to file somewhere I can find later if needed.
What I discovered this summer, however, is that any email that is longer than two paragraphs, I simply ignore. No matter who it's from. I open it, glance at it briefly and then just close it without taking any further action. My brain just can't absorb that much information, so I don't even try. Apparently, I have unwittingly instated a two-paragraph-maximum policy.
I found out about my policy the hard way.
One day at lunch, some of my co-"workers" started bitching about some project they were working on. For the sake of this story, we'll call it "Project X."
J: "So where are you with Project X? Isn't it annoying?"
A: "Oh. My. God. Can we just talk about Project X for a minute? Are they fucking kidding me with this? When the hell am I supposed to do this? I'll have to pull an all-nighter to get this in by Friday."
J: "I know. I hate it. I wish they would stop asking for this stuff."
G: "So how did you guys approach it - did you do the list first and then get all the data to fill in, or did you make the calls to see who was interested before you did that other spreadsheet?"
Tom: "Project X? What is that?"
J+A+G: "What do you mean? It's due Friday. Haven't you started it?"
Tom: "Started what? I don't even know what you guys are talking about."
A+G: "Didn't M forward you that email from the home office?"
Tom: "Hmm, probably... maybe I didn't see it."
J: "Well I know she forwarded it to you, because I got it and you were on the email."
Tom: "Oh, ok....."
So you see, these emails are a real problem. When I went to look at my overflowing inbox, I realized that I simply stopped reading any email that exceeded two paragraphs in length. No matter who it was from. Even if it was from my boss.
My boss forwards a lot of emails from the bigwigs in our home office. I don't really care about the bigwigs in our home office because I don't know most of them, they don't know me, and I don't aspire to work anywhere near them. So I just ignore them. Even when they try to talk to me through my boss. And especially when they try to talk to me through my boss via long, rambling emails.
I went and had a little chat with my boss. Since I'm brutally honest by nature, I simply informed her that my policy prevented me from finding out about Project X in a timely fashion, and that I would need an extension to complete it on time.
My boss likes me, but let's just say she was not impressed by this news, or by my policy.
"Tom, I appreciate how busy you are and that you do a great job taking care of your accounts. But I really need you to start reading your emails. Do you think you can do that?"
I still haven't given her a firm answer. Instead, I got J+A+G to promise to let me know when anything important comes up over email.
Despite this minor setback, I think my policy turned out to be a good one. I'm much more efficient at work now that everyone knows I won't read all their crap.