email overload ~ challenge and opportunity

You know that feeling when there’s nothing you can do to help a situation.
I viewed the process of implementing a new email system with some trepidation but realised the need for us to make some necessary changes and had to hand over the process to a very proficient outside agencies technician. The promise that the changes would “in due course not only provide an email system that is fit for purpose going forward as an organisation but also give us access to the wider functionality of Office 365 that will facilitate our collective administration”.
The agreed implementation day last Wednesday didn’t go to plan and it is only this morning on the eve of leaving for the Isle of Arran tomorrow that the 145 folders in my Outlook have began to be populated by the several thousand emails, joining the 211 that have been sent to me since being effectively off-line since Tuesday night, most of whom require some response.
Alvin Toffler, the futurologist, back in the 1970s wrote about the impact of the technological revolution. One consequence, I know personally, is that of the overwhelming emails that seek my attention. I try to resist their clamour and regularly de-clutter and refuse to be available with email notification alerts but the ‘inbox mountain’ continues to rise and even my attempts to fool myself by creating folders and subfolders doesn’t significantly reduce ‘Mount Email’.
I have clung tenaciously to that line in our Northumbria Community’s Midday Prayer, “let nothing disturb thee… nothing affright thee, all things are passing” and whether it is denial, expediency or resignation to the fact that I am powerless to do anything but wait, I have got on with the rest of my life and quite enjoyed these past few days.
It’s only when I think of the emails that I know I was hoping to respond to before leaving tomorrow and the thought of the vengeance of the emails awaiting my return a week on Monday that have caused me any moments of pressure.
So instead of spending on average 1.5 hours a day on emails, I have enjoyed some extra reading, conversations with a neighbour, hosting two Companions of our Community who dropped in to see us on their way home from their recent holiday, a round of golf, (my first this year – humility prevents me from showing you my scorecard and revealing the full extent of me beating my golfing partner who plays on a regular basis!). Resigned to the situation of having to contend with email absence, I went out with two of our very dear friends who were staying with us from London for a lovely relaxed Indian meal before we went on and joined other friends for the TEAR Fund quiz at church on Friday evening, (our team, “Northern Rock and Southern Softies’ won by 1 point.) Yesterday, sleet and a dusting of snow greeted us in the morning and thankfully cleared in time for Johnny and I to get ourselves down to the Riverside to see a very proficient Derby County team almost annihilate Middlesbrough in the first half. A poor Boro team selection, inept tactics and lack of confidence made for a very frustrating first 45 minutes for the home supporters. A considerably better second half saw Boro somehow achieve a draw that in truth they did not deserve. Grit and determination overcame style and substance to level the scores but the final whistle was greeted more with relief than appreciation.
In between these very pleasurable times have been periods of work and reflecting this morning on the experience, more qualitative work has been achieved in these last few days in the absence of the need to write and respond to emails.
That is both enlightening, disheartening, challenging and illuminating. What I make of it and how I respond will remain to be seen, but not until November…

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