Monday, August 29, 2005

Email has taken over my day and...I want my day back.

As an agent, I frequently get told, “It must be great to have a job where you read all day,” to which I invariably respond about three different ways:

  1. Well, most of what I read I reject.

  2. Well, it’s not like I get to read that much during the day. Most of my reading is done at night or on the weekends.

  3. Well, yes, but it turns reading into work and it’s no longer a pleasure, it’s part of my job.
But, that said, don’t we almost all have jobs where we read all day? Whether it’s email, memos, reports, etc., we’re all reading. And writing. But in the same way that “business casual” has taken over dress in many workplaces, so has it taken over email. I get emails for the strangest reasons. I halfway expect to receive one soon with a picture of some friend’s kid successfully using the potty for the first time. And while I appreciate the importance of this event to his parents, I’m sure I don’t need to know about it.

You see, email has taken over my day and...I want my day back.

I don’t miss phone tag. Really, I don’t. And I don’t miss having twenty copies of proposals photocopied and then having to get those out to editors. Email is great in that it does save time and expense, not to mention paper, in making submissions.

What I do miss, though, is the lag time. The time between writing a letter and mailing it and being able to get to the next thing on my list while I wait for a response. And I miss the patience that people had to have when they sent a letter and needed a response. Or even made a phone call. Now I get an email and if I don’t respond inside of a day, I get a follow-up email. I actually have had to tell folks that, while the delivery of email may be nearly instantaneous, my response may not be. And you’d be surprised how many folks find that surprising.

With that in mind, I’m considering becoming a bit more Catholic when it comes to email. Remember meatless Fridays? I’m thinking of taking up emailless Mondays. Or Fridays. Or Wednesdays. I’m not sure what day. But I know that I have 301 emails in my in-box and they wouldn’t be there if I didn’t need to do something with them. Either print them and file them, or respond, or follow-up or something. Email has turned us all into Sisyphus; no sooner do we get the rock up the hill—or our email in-box emptied—than it rolls down on us again in the form of ten more emails.

Thus, I would like to introduce the following New Rules (sorry, Bill Maher) for email:

  1. No more emails that are just “Thanks.” I assume you are grateful and relieve you of the responsibility to express it.

  2. No more emails to see if I got your email. Yes, if you haven’t heard from me in three days, a follow-up is fair. But call me if it’s that important.

  3. No more chain emails to save the starving orphan tsunami children who lost their parents on 9/11 only to experience true love for the first time after they sent this email to fifteen people.

  4. No more emails about sales, trips, or special deals that you found online. I appreciate the thought, but I’m a guy. I shop like a guy. If I need shoes, I go buy shoes. If I need shorts, I go buy shorts. I am not looking for leads to sample sales.

  5. No more emails first thing on Monday morning. This is in your own best interest. We are all tired and cranky and that putz in HR probably spent the weekend sending out emails about updating your 401K or not sexually harassing the FedEx delivery driver anymore (ladies, you know who you are). I do not have the time or patience on Monday morning to read email. Try me on Tuesday, except during football season, in which case wait for Wednesday, until the hangover passes.

  6. I’m very glad that you are going to Australia, England, France, or Luxembourg, but I probably don’t need to know. Put an autoresponder on your email and update your voicemail message. If I need to find you, I’ll know you went away. No need to let me know in advance...unless you owe me money, of course. In which case, please pay me before you go.

  7. Enough with the signatures quoting some random philosopher. If I want that stuff, I’ll order in some Chinese and eat the cookie first.

  8. If you are an author and your email address is “HarryPotter328967@aol.com,” I am somewhat confident your book is not original enough for me.

  9. If you are an author and sending me an email even though I say everywhere that I don’t accept email queries, please save you and me the trouble and just delete it from your outbox.

  10. Before you hit send, ask yourself, Would you say this in person to me? Would you call me on the phone and say it? Would you put it in a letter and say it? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” please hit cancel.
Thank you for contributing to my efforts to reduce the number of emails in my in-box!

Z

3 comments:

LK said...

To which I can only add...Amen.

Anonymous said...

umm, sorry Andy, it was only one small, tiny tiny e-mail--really. LOL

SRH

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy said...

I applaud this blog! I identify with and understand with a deep compassion.

Although I'm a writer rather than agent, I'll adopt your rules post haste in a desperate hope to simplify my life.

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