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I’ve been speaking to an email overload specialist and I feel slightly relieved. I’ve read so many articles about just checking your email two or three times a day so you are not distracted by email and I’ve never had the self control to do that. I like checking my email. It’s like waiting for post. The possibility of something amazing coming through the inbox is always there even if the reality is slightly more mundane. Nowadays the only mail I get through the front door is bills, takeaway adverts or shoes for my partner. The postman now knows that most packages that come for our address are likely to be shoes off eBay. Generally they look really similar to the ones he’s already got, but they make him happy. The postman sympathises – he apparently has around 40 pairs of shoes himself.
Anyway, email opens up the possibility of long lost friends finding you, of ping emails from the school about exciting parking arrangements and all sorts. Clearly these should probably not come through my work email, but my life is one big merge. In fact, my personal email includes all my Google alerts for work. As I do more than one job I am used to hopping between email accounts so there is rarely a time during the day or night when there are 0 emails.
I live in fear of being swamped by email and therefore a process of checking them only three times a day runs the risk of hitting a deluge just when you are ready to finish up. I guess being a journalist also means you have to be on constant alert for news. Maybe that is why I like email, even the rubbish stuff about new products that I will never use or the endless boring messages that people deem appropriate to copy you in on. There is a certain satisfaction in hitting delete. I do not feel quite so enthusiastic about instant messenger. It pops up right in the middle of things and demands to be read. In fact, in the middle of the interview about email overload I had a couple of instant messages [and a ping from the school about the harvest festival].
You’d think the younger generation would be communications wizards. They seem to be on their phones a lot, facetiming or whatsapping or snapchatting. So why is it that they never ever answer actual calls [from their parents?]. All of them have school emails and several have their own separate email account, but they rarely seem to check it unless they are purposefully avoiding their mother’s emails [which could be a possibility]. I emailed all three daughters the other day to say I’d be on time to pick them up. No-one saw the email or accompanying whatsapp messages. My brother in Argentina is often more responsive on the family whatsapp than the kids, even when my question is directed specifically to the kids.
Perhaps part of the reason I like work email is that my messages tend not to be ignored in quite the same way as the ones on phones to my children are.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.