Stories and thoughts about family and life

My life feels like my e-mail inbox

on May 18, 2012

Erma Bombeck wrote a book called “When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home.”  I always thought that was funny, but I don’t think I really “got” it until I started traveling.  Scratch that.  I didn’t get it until I started traveling WITH KIDS.  Trying to get all the items packed where we can get to what we need, have the passports handy, make sure nothing leaks.  Oh, wait?!?  Where’s my wallet??  Whew!  Yeah, you’ve been there.  You know what I’m talking about.

I’ve joked about being a little OCD, Type A, whatever you want to call me.  I’m a lot better about most aspects of my life (my house doesn’t have to be perfect, for example) since having kids, but I am still kind of funny about how I like things and how I really want them.    Mostly I want them organized and I want a method to how things operate.  I can be flexible, and I can let you live your life the way you want–I just need to have some structure to certain aspects of mine.    Oh, and I also can’t say “no.”  So merge those two people together and you get. . .  well, me.  You get the me who says “just send that me and I’ll take care of it.”  You get the me who says “I know how to make that work.  Let me help you.”  and you get the me who says “hang on a second, and I’ll look that up.”  My web designer and I were just laughing about this the other day–how we sometimes have so many “good intentions” going on at a time that we need a gentle nudge.  Sometimes two.  My employees do this by e-mailing me little reminders, or asking me questions.  They do this because they know that my e-mail box is my working desk–it’s the way I ensure that things aren’t skipped and are eventually done.  It might be six months from now, but if it stays in my inbox, it’s not forgotten.  I don’t allow myself to file things until they’re completed.    My husband/CIO’s pet peeve is that I’m also a pack rat and I keep EVERYthing e-mailed to me that I think might ever potentially pop up again.  I learned to do that on my last corporate job (before starting my own business) because I was bitten in the butt several times and saved countless more by whether or not I had an e-mail which proved what I was saying.  This means I currently have 60 folders, with another probably 100 subfolders, and a few subfolders to those.  Believe it or not, I can generally put my hands on something within 30 minutes, but it also means I have a really hard time parting with things I don’t need anymore.

A couple of weeks ago, we realized there was a problem with how my e-mail was set up, and my ISP wasn’t supporting it any longer.  This wasn’t causing a huge problem, except that my employees have a different setup and we were running into compatibility issues sending items back and forth (tasks, specifically) via Outlook.  I finally decide to just have my husband/CIO start over and build me a new mailbox.  I build a folder to move over my inbox and my sent items so I don’t lose them (I pat myself on the back for thinking to do that, too, by the way).  He assures me my folders won’t disappear and I let him have my computer and my desk to make the “upgrade.”   I didn’t realize when this happened, though, my contacts, notes, and tasks were all going to disappear.  When I got my computer back, I just wanted to cry.    He didn’t realize I had notes (especially valuable ones), and thought I understood what was going to happen.  I was  furious because he doesn’t seem to understand that people who don’t have his expertise don’t always realize what they’re getting into.      And so it goes.  Couple that with my school experiences with my kids the past couple of days, and I’ve been ready for a good, stiff drink each night this week.  🙂

Anyway, once I got my e-mail back up and running, I began hand-keying my contacts from other locations I had them.  I’ve successfully recreated most of it.  My notes–well, that’s going to be complicated but we’ll get there.  My folders really didn’t disappear, and I’ve even been able to make other improvements on the whole mess like installing some better spam filters and getting a handle on that.  I usually get anywhere between 200 and 500 spam messages a day.  It was clearly getting out of control.

It drives me nuts when my inbox in my e-mail runs off the page.  This means I usually have more than 50 messages, and it’s a sign to myself that I need to put in some extra effort and get it straightened out.  Once I merged the new inbox with my old inbox, and the spam that was hitting every 15 minutes, I suddenly had 375 messages glaring at me.  After installing the spam filters and cleaning up a few other things, I was down to 111.  I hit it again, and started this morning with 92 messages.

The average day starts with grand intentions on my part–a to-do list and some rather lofty goals.  I’m lucky most days if I get a couple of things off my list.  As I’m planning on being gone on vacation after next week, 92 e-mails need to be worked.  I set about cleaning out, reading, saving, finishing, filing.  I’m amazed sometimes at the number of things that sit there waiting on me to make one little action in order for them to be resolved.  I had several e-mails which just needed to have a contact updated, or needed to have a file saved off, etc.  Then they could be filed–finished.    As I am proud to say that I’m finally down to 42 messages (and several of those will disappear over the weekend), I recognize that my life is very much this same process.  I have things that sometimes just take one little action to be completed, but sit here waiting on me to get a second to do that.  I have things that are “filed” all over the place, and while it’s organized (well, mostly, anyway), it looks chaotic to an outsider and I’m probably the only person who has a chance of finding anything.  That’s the mom’s role, though, right?  Find all the things no one else can?

As I cleaned up my inbox this afternoon and prepared for summer and school to be out, I have a fresh sense of purpose.  It’s like finishing your spring cleaning and knowing that you’re about to head for the beach.  We’ve also been able to get a couple of new clients in the past couple of weeks, so my general outlook on life has been pretty good today.  Most days my life feels like it’s overflowing like my inbox–people needing things and waiting for a response.  Appointment requests and updates to be made, and me wondering where to fit it all in.  But, also like my inbox, it all eventually gets worked, filed, and neatly organized.    Today is proof that summer will be more relaxation and less chaos, more productivity and less stress.  At least, that’s my plan.


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