Ethix Forum – Issue 10

Many of us are dealing with high volume e-mail. How many daily e-mail messages do you receive? How do you handle your e-mail so that you neither overlook important messages or waste time on unimportant ones?

I get between 50-100 e-mail messages per day. Sometimes more. I manage them by;

1. Reading e-mail frequently and dispensing with it quickly.
2. I take care of items by forwarding them to others for action or responding immediately. Once a message is dealt with, I “file” it electronically in a folder. Eudora has a very nice folder system that makes it easy to file messages and find them later.
3. If the request in the e-mail message is complex, I ask
an assistant to print the message for me and I deal with it during my next “open work time”.
4. I delete messages very quickly if they don’t look relevant.
Denice D. Denton
Dean of Engineering, University of Washington
Seattle, WA

On average, I receive about 20 emails a day, though it sometimes gets as high as 30 or 40. When I get to my office, I quickly scan what I’ve received, usually 3-5 are spam which I delete without reading, and the remainder are high, moderate or low priority. I read/respond to time-sensitive messages and archive others for later access, organizing them in folders according to work and personal categories including alliances, board of directors, human resources, venture funding, wedding planning (a recent addition!), etc. I also flag and highlight important ones that require follow-up, and immediately delete those I don’t think I’ll need again.
Gerard Beenen
Vice-President & Co-founder, Neodesic Corp.
Evanston, IL

I get, on average, 20 emails a day. From the perspective of my Internet provider, I am a case study in disaster. I save too much email and often far exceed my disk quota. At that point, incoming email gets bounced back to senders without explanation.

They are showing mercy, lately, since I’ve described the nature of my work (advising the Veritas Forum in about 80 major universities — it’s a bit like introducing orchestra members to each other in 7 countries to perform a symphony). To organize these 2,000+ bits of correspondence, I’ve set up about 50 topical folders.

Often email is factual and no follow-up is necessary (that’s what is most helpful to me about email). The more interpersonal or highly consequential matters I sometimes goof up by delaying them for a better time to answer — a moment that may never come. Meanwhile, I’ll spend 10 minutes on something less important. I’m trying not to let the immediacy of the medium diminish the quality of the response (hard to do).

A general principle: allow the internet to facilitate actual relationships, rather than to substitute the lesser (virtual reality) for the greater (real human beings together). The voice, a facial expression, tears, a glance, the eyes: these reveal most of what is worth knowing in the world.
Kelly Monroe
Veritas Forum
Cambridge, MA

I’ve never counted, but get 50-100 per day that I answer. I get lots of spam, too, but dump that without looking at it. Don’t ask me how, but I can tell. I don’t read junk mail at home, either. I do my best to respond personally to any reader who writes about the column. I almost never respond to e-mailed press releases or “pitches” from p.r. firms. With some readers, I have developed an ongoing dialogue. Most appear to be one-time writers. Many express surprise that I take time to write, particularly those who flamed me in their initial note.

The paradox about e-mail for me is this: I respond to e-mail, but for people who actually write a letter, buy a stamp, and go to the post office, I don’t necessarily get back to them. It’s just inconvenient, I get lots of mail, and I’m too busy. I hope I don’t rot in hell for that.
David Greising
Business Columnist, The Chicago Tribune
Chicago, IL

I receive approximately 20 e-mail messages per day. I’ve set up a system of subfolders that correspond to various areas (the owner of the company has his own folder, subscription e-mails have their own, etc). I’ve created a series of filters that automatically place mail in the appropriate folder. This solution works well for me – it may not work well for others.
John Burski
Saint Cloud, MN

I am glad to see business people banding together to provide a forum for ethical business practices during a time in which the only thing many people view to be important is the all mighty dollar.

I receive about 20 messages every day. I usually scan my mail based on the subject and remove anything from people or places that I do not recognize. I then review what is left.
Mark A. Gilmore
Santa Clara, CA

I don’t handle e-mail messages well at all, but have found the Nisus Software ( program called Mailkeeper to be the best tool for e-mail storage and retrieval. Unfortunately, this little $29.95 gem is only available for Macs.
Gary Ginter
Catalytica, Chicago, IL

Over the past few years, email has become a major communication tool, resulting in a widespread dissemination of jokes, trivia, quotable quotes, and the like. We enjoy them, and pass on many ourselves (probably about 10% of what we get). Over the past few years now, we have seen a lot of the same material re-circulated many times, perhaps in slightly varying forms. In order to manage this proliferation on our end, I want to let you know the philosophy we are using for incoming email.

We will probably delete a message without opening it if:
(1) the SUBJECT is generic gibberish (e.g. “cute joke”, “musings”, etc.)
(2) the message is forwarded from someone else (i.e. the subject line contains FW:) unless the subject sounds extremely compelling. Forwarded messages require wading through a lot of headers that describe the previous forwarding history. And sometimes the message contains embedded characters that make reading it very awkward.

Here are some suggestions to make reading what you send a more enjoyable experience for your readers:
(1) If it is truly good, it is worth the time to cut, paste, edit, and send it out as an original message from you. We’ve been trying to do this ourselves (although we may not agree on what is a “good” joke).
(2) Give it a subject that is descriptive.
(3) Don’t routinely pass on collections from a jokes web site. Instead tell us about the URL you found, and we can check it out ourselves.
John Erisman
Boise ID