Overwhelmed by Your Inbox? The Case for Email Parties

This is a re-post of an article I was recently featured in, written by my friend and productivity guru Pierre Khawand at People OnTheGo.

“People get out of balance when they see their value as being able to respond quickly. If I see myself as a machine for answering email, then my work life would never stop because my email never stops. If instead I see my value as separating the important from the unimportant and making good decisions on the important, then I can go home at a reasonable hour, spend time with my family, ignore my email and phone messages all weekend long, and make sure that when I return to work, I am in the right mood to make the good decisions.”

Peter Norvig, Director of research at Google (Interview in Your Value Is In Deciding What’s Important, Not Answering Email, Lifehacker - Sept 2010)

Do you find the e-mail overload "suffocating"? An e-mail "party" can help and the 5 ingredients to get you there

Julie & Jenny, both very active and in leadership roles at their company and both having to deal with loads of e-mail messages constantly pouring into their inboxes, get together regularly not just to have friendly chats, but for something more drastic which they refer to as an e-mail "party." It is a get-together that is focused on processing their e-mail messages, but only after creating the right atmosphere to make this a fun activity. "Fun?" You might ask. Well, keep on reading.

"The party usually starts with venting" said Julie, and sometimes it might involve some wine but it certainly has to involve chocolate, she indicated later. "E-mail is a suffocating activity " she added, so doing it alone may not exactly be motivating or even possible, however doing this with a friend while enjoying some treats and nice exchanges seems to turn this activity into one that is digestible or even enjoyable!

The e-mail party seems to involve these main ingredients:

  1. Companionship: Having someone with you. Creating the feeling of togetherness. You are not alone in this!
  2. Conversation: It is not just about being together, but also sharing observations, insights, and even "venting" as Julie put it.
  3. Immediate gratification: The wine, chocolate and bad reality TV definitely help. Brainstorm whatever makes you comfortable and willing to undertake the challenge.
  4. Focus: It sounds contradictory to be having conversations and rewards and yet be mentioning focus. However, the e-mail party does have one core purpose, and that is going through and processing e-mail. The rest is designed to help stay focused on this purpose.
  5. Clear destination: The goal is to have an empty inbox and feel good about it. Not to mention stay on top of things, give people the answers they need, and help move important issues forward.

What an innovative way to turn a task that can be challenging or mundane into something to look forward to and enjoy! Maybe it is time you try it. Stop looking at these hundreds of messages in your inbox and dwelling about them and have a party!


P.S. I made my first TV appearance last week! It was a 30-minute interview for my friend Gopi's local TV Show, Change Makers. (Gopi wrote the guest post here called "How I Outsource My Life to Over 13 People." I will share the video when it becomes available; in the meantime, here are some behind-the-scenes pictures of the taping:

Jenny Blake and Gopi Kallayil on the Change Makers set

Gopi's set on the left; green screen on the right (Jenny Blake on the far left)

The Control Room