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12-step program for e-mail addiction stumbles

By Paul McNamara on Tue, 02/20/07 - 3:53pm.

Hi, my name is Paul and I am an e-mail addict.

Reuters this afternoon brings us news that an executive coach named Marsha Egan has devised a 12-step program to treat e-mail addiction.

Let's just say I am unimpressed.

(2011's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries)

Here's the list:

1. Admit that e-mail is managing you. Let go of your need to check e-mail every ten minutes.

Where are those Guinness guys from the TV commercials when you need them? Brilliant! I'll just "let go" of my need to check e-mail every 10 minutes (if only I could wait 10 minutes) and there will be no need at all for the next 11 steps. Brilliant!

2. Commit to keeping your inbox empty.

What am I missing? I'm already committed to keeping my inbox empty. I'm so committed to keeping my inbox empty that I'm checking my e-mail more often than hibernating animals breathe. I don't need more commitment. I need to be committed.

3. Create files where you can put inbox material that needs to be acted on.

Oh, that old chestnut. Files, files, files. The only file that might do me any good is the deleted file ... and even then it would have to be set to be automatically emptied every 10 minutes.

4. Make broad headings for your filing system so that you have to spend less time looking for filed material.

Seriously, someone pour me a drink or I'll never get through these 12 steps. The only file that's a problem is my inbox. Does anyone advise an alcoholic to do a better job of filing their booze?

5. Deal immediately with any e-mail that can be handled in two minutes or less but create a file for mails that will take longer.

Again with the files. And two minutes or less? Practically all of my e-mail can be dealt with in two minutes or less. The problem is that I'm checking it every two minutes or less.

6. Set a target date to empty your inbox. Don't spend more than an hour at a time doing it.

Didn't we already empty the inbox in step No. 2? Maybe I just wasn't cut out for this 12-step business.

7. Turn off automatic send/receive.

So you mean I'll have to click an extra button to check my e-mail? Not exactly a straitjacket, now is it. I'm an addict, I'll click the bloody button. ... Next?

8. Establish regular times to review your e-mail.

I already have regular times, they're just a bit more regular than would be considered sane. ... C'mon, c'mon, I've e-mail to check.

9. Involve others in conquering your addiction.

Any volunteers? Want to manage my inbox for me? ... No, I was just kidding; hands off.

10. Reduce the amount of e-mail you receive.

OK, I'll try. ... Would everybody please send me less e-mail? ... (Now I have to go see if that worked.)

11. Save time by using only one subject per e-mail; delete extra comments from forwarded e-mail, and make the subject line detailed.

Personally, I don't even understand the first part of that. And the second and third would seem to require more not less of my time.

12. Celebrate taking a new approach to e-mail.

Can I go check it now?

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