Playing Catch Up

I have been sharing out entries on my sidebar for a few weeks giving me pointers on how to catch up with all of the digital communications in my life. But so far? That’s all I’ve done. The emails still all go unanswered and unaddressed while new ones come in adding to the pile. I’ve read a bunch of good articles about the best solutions to this problem, but I’ve learned the catch that they don’t inform you of: Reading the articles doesn’t actually do it for you!

Can you believe it?

Turns out, I’m supposed to actually do more than just read the articles. I’m supposed to do the things they tell me. Otherwise, the email still piles up and people get angrier and angrier as they get ignored longer and longer.

I’m using the excuse that I haven’t decided the best method to take. I personally like Email Bankruptcy (Throwing it all away while asking people if to re-email you if it was important. Essentially giving you good “Start” point.) But, I don’t think that’s the best solution. I feel like it implies that I’m hoping your wants/needs are not important enough to contact me again. When in reality it’s just that (A) I have about 2 seconds of “free time” a day and (B) I’m really lazy during those 2 seconds and would rather soak in the tub than answer emails.

So, I’m going to stall a little longer by simply asking YOU.

1) Have you ever gotten really behind on emails? Did you rectify that? How?

2) Do you stay caught up on emails? How?

3) How do you feel from the other end? If someone finally responds to your email months later – what do you consider a “good” excuse? Are you just happy they finally emailed you back or do you want a good explanation?

4) Can you make up a good explanation for me to use? Something that would possibly involve me being preoccupied doing something noble and respectable. Like, feeding the world, or saving the planet. Something like that.

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23 Responses

  1. stacey says:

    I keep up on emails. I mean I got home after being away from the computer all day to 20+ (a small amount for some) and read everything and responded to those that needed responded. But that is only because I have no life. ;) I am able to do that. You have a family to take care of and well sometimes that is WAY more important then answering some emails. I don’t think anyone has emailed me after a long amount of time. Chances are if they did? I would have forgotten that I had sent it in the first place.

  2. Violet says:

    As far as I’m concerned, you HAVE an excuse – you’re pregnant, you were sick, and you’re raising a toddler. Enough said! (of course, that’s my situation, too, and I’m using that as my excuse, so I’m considering that extremely valid!). But seriously, it’s tough enough to have any focus or energy when you’re pregnant, much less when you’re chasing around a tornado of energy like a toddler. I think most people understand that. And if they don’t, well – tough!

    And I have a lot of friends who reply to emails a month later, and it doesn’t really faze me. I know people get busy, and as long as I hear back from them every once in a while, I’m glad to hear from them. Don’t stress about it – if you wrote back immediately, then THEY’D stress about writing back immediately, and it would just be an endless cycle, right?

  3. Susan says:

    As one who lives in email denial and much prefers to receive rather than send, I have to say I’d find it fantastic to receive a reply from someone, even if it’s months later. At work, I use the GTD inbox zero method, and I LOVE it. Somehow, though, I haven’t managed to do it with my two personal email addresses. I was close one time with my gmail, but then life happened . . . I do encourage folders or labels for email, though. You could name one of yours “Reply Someday.” Oh, oh! And, as for an excuse, I like the excuse, “Hey, I know it’s been a long time, but I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ll spare you my excuses because they’re not good enough . . .”

    God, I have a lot to say about email. Sorry.

  4. Cass says:

    I have a policy. If it’s older then 15 days and it’s hogging up space in my inbox it’s deleted.

    If it could wait 15 days without me doing anything – it probably doesn’t need me to do anything.

    THEN I go to my inbox and I go through one by one – anything that I can do NOW, I do. Anything that needs thought I flag with an orange flag and anything that I don’t ever want to do I leave alone and wait for it to age 15 days.

    It’s not perfect, and I’m sure I’ve pissed off a few people but I can’t have e-mail stressing me out – I have really important things to worry about, like what shade of pink to use on the lower half of the nursery, or what brand of brownies to buy later today.

  5. Heather says:

    I’ve never gotten really behind on emails because I’m not popular enough to have so many to keep up with ;) Of course, sometimes I’m late in replying anyway. Sometimes the more important, the longer it takes me, because I worry so much about what to say!
    When I get an email after a long lag (or even a shortish one, because I’m forgetful!) I really appreciate if they copy mine back to me (though gmail makes this not really necessary) so I can remember what I wrote them about in the first place!

  6. Fraulein N says:

    I don’t have that many people emailing me, so it’s never really been a problem. Usually if there’s stuff clogging my inbox it’s just crap from companies and not anything from actual people.

    And dude. I would SO be using pregnant as an excuse. For anything, really.

  7. Bethiclaus says:

    I consider raising a teenager and a toddler while gestating a perfectly good excuse for not getting back to someone. I don’t even have the teenager, and I used that one all the time.

  8. jessica says:

    I balme everything o nmy husband. and sometimes the baby. Who’s gonna argue with that? You know SOMEHOW it’s their fault anyhow :)

  9. Randi says:

    I respond to my emails within 24 hrs or less generally…but then again, no one loves me ;)

  10. amber says:

    1) If it gets too bad, I block off an evening (after Elizabeth’s in bed) and just don’t leave my email program until it’s done.

    2) Remember the Milk helps, but it’s not my final solution yet.

    3) I don’t really get bothered with waiting, because I’m on the other end so frequently.

    4) If I find one, I’ll share. :)

  11. cagey says:

    Sob. Sadly, this is gonna be a Me!Too! comment.

    When my inbox gets constipated, I usually designate a day to go through them and figure it out. Emails that I do respond to, I start off with a “I am so very lame, I am aware of this , believe me. Sorry ’bout that, Jesus!” sort of statement.

    Gulp.

  12. I’m guilty of #3 because I don’t check the e-mail for my blog very often. Thinking that no one will e-mail me. And whoops, when I checked it yesterday there were e-mails from some very nice bloggers. Ooops.

    YOU shouldn’t worry about it! Pregnant, sick, parenting…I like the idea of E-Mail Bankruptcy. Just start fresh.

  13. Mrs. CPA says:

    Well, at least I don’t feel so bad about that awesome left turn article I sent you last week never getting a response. Either it’s in line to be read, or everything I’ve ever sent, like when I donated to MDA, is in your spam folder there to grow old and be deleted.

    I have a couple of e-mails in my folder that are sort of old. One from a stranger asking more about the hometown we shared. I haven’t had a chance to do the research and respond and he sent it 5 months ago. My main problem is reading them and then not deleting them. Then my box fills up and the important stuff might get deleted by accident. Sort of like when I accidentally deleted Tim’s Battlestar Galactia while clearing out the TIVO overzealously.

  14. Kathy says:

    I am chronically behind on emails. I’ve even made it a point to let people know — blogging friends and those in real life — that I’m just bad at it. Before I had a computer I was bad at returning phone calls, so it’s not that different. I am trying, though.

  15. blogversary says:

    I don’t really have this problem. Gee thanks for making me feeling so unpopular!

    Just kidding.

    I think you are worrying to much about it.

    Answer when you can. If it warrants a real apology then do, but most of the time I don’t think an apology is needed.

    I personally don’t like it when people who respond to my emails days or weeks later and the first thing they says is sorry for being so late or whatever. I find it disingenuous, because the reality is that we are all busy. Just write the email, no apology.

    I also don’t like it when people make statements like, “I am bad at email,” or similar. There is no right or wrong way to email. There is just emailing.

    Happy Friday!

  16. I don’t get THAT many emails, but I use my inbox (both work and personal) as a to-do list, and since I am slightly (extremely) compulsive, having an overflowing inbox makes me want to jump off a bridge. When I come back from a trip or something and have a huge backlog, I shut my door and dont’ do anything for an hour or two except sort through emails – delete all the junk, move all the stuff that was just for my information to folders/archive, and then prioritize what needs to be done. I work really hard for a few days to get everything answered and get back on top of things, and then I resume my lazy, procrastinating ways.

    If someone take a really long time to get back to me, I really appreciate it if they just send me an email to say “sorry — been busy — will get to you soon”, or “Sorry – been busy – is this still important?”

    You have about ten excuses – you have two kids you’re caring for, you’re pregnant, you’ve been sick, you changed jobs… I say, just email everyone saying you’ve been swamped, sorry, is this still important?

  17. Even though I get relatively few emails, I do try to process it to empty every day.

    More food for thought…have you heard about alternative productivity and anti-hacks? Here’s a primer…it’s an interesting critique of “hacks” culture.

    http://thegrowinglife.com/2008/04/on-alternative-productivity-anti-hacks-for-living/

  18. Michelle says:

    I usually keep up on my email but I don’t have that many to address anymore. If they get away from me and I haven’t answered in a week, I triage them. If they weren’t something I had to respond to, I delete. If they were, I try to at least send an “I didn’t forget about you…will try to get back to you in the coming week” email if requires a longer response.

    As for an excuse? I don’t expect one “Sorry, things got away from me” is more than sufficient if one feels necessary but playing the pregnant/working/raising a toddler and teen card should do it.

  19. NG says:

    I have a gmail account, but I have all my email forwarded to a different account and read it there. It occurred to me recently that gmail has a spam filter and that sometimes people I didn’t think had answered my email all those moths back in fact, had, and they didn’t get forwarded to my other account because they went to gmail’s spam folder instead. I have no way of knowing how many emails I missed.

    So I’m for a liberal forgiveness policy now.

  20. Becca says:

    Seriously, I don’t think strangers who email your blog should expect a prompt response, if one is even required. You are a MOM. You are an EXPECTANT MOM. You are a WIFE. You are an EMPLOYEE. That’s enough to have on anyone’s plate. Add to that, you’re a good mom. You go on picnics and play in the park and ride on tire swings, pregnant and all. I think you should be proud of the excellent kids you are raising, the entertaining blog you write, and for the important emails that you are able to answer. I’m never offended if a blogger that I don’t know who has lots of email doesn’t respond to my question or my email. If they can or have anything to add to what I’m asking or saying, I’m grateful if they can, but otherwise. Gone. Forgotten. I still read the blogs, I still comment, I still enjoy.

  21. WonderSpot says:

    I don’t think anyone keeps up with emails 100%.

    I say try using Y2K as an excuse. I mean, why not? Or blame the econemy. Or Karl Rove. He’s a great scapegoat.

  22. Jem says:

    1) I don’t really get that many emails! But some days I just don’t have the energy to respond. That being said, once I start writing, I can’t stop, and I guess even a small response is better than none at all.

    2) Again, I don’t really get that many emails! But generally I’m caught up

    3) Umm…I guess I’d be kind of annoyed if someone took months to reply.It depends on who it was. If it was a friend, I’d be annoyed, but if it was someone I didn’t know I probably wouldn’t care as I’d understand they were busy.

    4) I guess you just have to be honest and say that you get really busy and distracted. I mean you’re pregnant, you have an excuse!

  23. Stefanie says:

    I’m just now reading this post and it’s 12 days after you posted it, so you might not wanna take my advice on keeping up with email, BUT I find that if I respond immediately after reading the email, I get it done and keep up with it. So maybe just respond with each one read and don’t read them if you don’t have time to respond. The curiousity alone might get you to keep up better. :)

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