Struggling with email

There was a concert in the square beneath our apartment this evening. It started at around 6:30 and concluded at 10:30. I think it was a concert, but it could have been the first ever commercial spaceship full of Chinese tourists, preparing for launch into outer space; incredibly loud, with a myriad of flashing lights and every five minutes a demented electronic riff, like a madman slamming his hands on a Casio keyboard from the 1980s, to announce the start or end of each song/preflight check.

Normally I would wax lyrical about the excitement and verve that living in Chinatown brings. When there’s a shouting competition for four hours beneath you, and a baby that’s getting ever-so-slightly antsy in your bedroom, and you’re decompressing from a stressful day at the office, then the heart begins to yearn for a life in a soulless condominium, far from the madding crowd.

But then I’d be reduced to complaining about how quiet everything was. Some people, it seems, are never happy.

Today was stressful because I spent most of my time in meetings, rather than getting anything done. Slowly, like fat in your arteries, emails and uncompleted tasks built up in my inbox, until I dreaded looking at my computer, terrified of all the reminders of things left undone.

I’ve been more disciplined recently in cutting my inbox down to size. I managed to empty my work inbox entirely, but recently the contents have been metastatising; we’re back to 80 and rising again, as of this evening. Gmail is actually slightly worse; I’ve moved from using a Priority Inbox to Google’s recommended folder view, but that actually feels worse, as I now have four times as many folders to worry about. Since half the emails I have in those folders are updates to prior email threads, it would be nice to have a way to purge all the updates that are older than the most recent one, but even Google isn’t smart enough to decide for me that five similar-but-not-the-same emails from LinkedIn should all be threaded together. Maybe in the next iteration, my concentration span will be saved.

While we’re on the subject of email, I now find fault with both Gmail and the client on my Windows Phone. Unlike Outlook, where with a single button press I can transform an email into a task and expunge it from my inbox, I can’t see a way to do this in Gmail or on my phone. Since this is the easiest way for me to prevent my inbox becoming my to-do list, I’m convinced somebody else must have cracked it already, but a cursory check reveals no clues. Suggestions would be gratefully received.

More positively, I did find the option in my phone to put a task off by one day; unfortunately, there’s no "put everything off by 15 minutes" button, which a man like me, often besieged by one reminder after another, really needs. But again, perhaps I’m just Doing It Wrong; suggestions on a better way to manage all the incoming tasks I have, guilt-free, would also be welcomed.

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