The Inbox: a filing cabinet populated by other people

A weekend spent in the company of all sorts of different people has made me think about email.

Specifically, the tyranny of the inbox. How it rules our lives. How it judges us. And how we judge ourselves by it.

Email is a push technology – senders impose on the recipient their requests for action, implicit or otherwise.

We’ve all become accustomed to the experience. Email noise has become normalised. It’s part of our everyday experience. So much so that we don’t even notice its impact.

Always excited by analogies, I’ve started thinking of my email inbox like a filing cabinet, stuffed full of information people think I need to have which they have put there themselves.

Who the hell do they think they are?

I didn’t ask them to fill my filing cabinet. They’ve just let themselves in through the front door, climbed the stairs, opened the draw and stuffed they’re apparently important document in wherever they think it needs to go. It’s apparently left to me to sort it out.

We wouldn’t allow people to fill our own filing system with crap. If they were to be trusted to populate the filing cabinet on our behalf, we’d tell them what should go in and what should be thrown away.

So it should be with email.

Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it demands or deserves attention.

Email me with things you think I’d like to know. Ring me if you need me to take action. The rest of the time, let’s meet for a coffee and develop one another’s ideas. We’ll respect one another far far more in the long run.

Jon Jacob is ICF Accredited Coach, specialising in management, executive, and leadership coaching at the BBC, media organisations, and higher education establishments.

To discuss how coaching could benefit you, contact him on 07768 864655 or at Jon Jacob is @TGoodCoach on Twitter.

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