Email outage = blessing in disguise?

This morning the campus community received a phone message explaining that our email system was down and our provider was working to find a solution as quickly as possible. My first reaction, I admit, was something along the lines of,


I despaired of getting anything done today. But then, on second thought, it occurred to me that this might be a blessing in disguise. Let me explain…

Yesterday I returned to Marygrove after my delicious summer vacation, during which I visited New Orleans for the first time, accompanied my niece on a few college visits, and waged war against the squirrel who uproots my pepper plants and throws them over the porch wall. And then laughs at me.

During my vacation I did a little work from home so as to minimize the work I’d have to tackle upon returning. Still, it took me all day to sort through my email. If you’re anything like me, you use email for so much more than communicating with others. I use email as my to-do list, my calendar, a way to store passwords and documents I’m working on. (I know, I know, that’s what a flash drive is for. But sometimes I don’t have easy access to my flash drive. Sometimes I’m not logged onto a computer as myself and so can’t get to the My Documents folder. Sometimes – well, you get the point.) At times my email even serves as a memory-nudger; recently I searched my email for a price quote I received last year from a database vendor.

As essential as email is, I don’t believe that spending all day sorting, tagging, deleting and responding is a productive use of my (or your) time. As I frantically plugged away yesterday, wondering when I’d be able to move on to other work, another 50 or so emails arrived. Many had no direct relevance to the work I do.

So, no, I’m not horribly upset that our email is down. I get a day’s reprieve!

In the meantime, given that email outages on campus are very rare, I’m trying some new techniques to reduce feelings of despair and distraction:

  • reading and responding to email during a strict half hour in the morning, mid-day, and late afternoon (as a non-administrator, I have the luxury of spending the rest of my time *logged out*)
  • using websites like BaseCamp and Google Docs to manage my projects and collaborations
  • picking up the phone or visiting someone’s office rather than sending an email and waiting for a response
  • using social media such as Facebook and Google Reader to share interesting headlines with my colleagues
  • using the library’s zine or blog to communicate our news to the campus community

Here are links to others who’ve weighed in on The Email Problem:

I’d love to hear how you handle this problem. Share your ideas in the comment section below.

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