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The Chinese Predicted Email

July 29, 2019

An old Chinese proverb describes an insanity test. A man is given a bucket and told to use it to drain a small pond.

If the man immediately starts to bail out the pond, he is deemed insane.

If he first diverts the stream feeding the pond, he is deemed to be sane.

I’m pretty sure I’m insane.

Every day is an exercise in draining the pond. I created folders. I reply to many. I delete a few. But, the relentless pace of email continues on.

I was in Alabama last week at one of our sites. It was a very busy week. And it wasn’t just busy in the sense that I had lots of meetings and emails. It was busyin that I had to be on my feet on our call floor for 10-12 hours per day.

But, my job is more than working the call floor. All my normal duties were still going. And that means that my normal supply of email was still going.

At the end of a week, my inbox numbered in the hundreds. Most of Saturday was spent filing, responding and generally trying to get it back down to a managable level.

You might wonder why I didn’t wait until Monday? Sure, I often have to work weekends if something breaks down, but why ask for it?

Because about one in every 50 messages was something important. Like, really important. Such as a message titled


It wasn’t still today, but I still had to respond. And I didn’t want to get to Monday and have dozens of these waiting for me. And, I needed to plan a trip to Dayton for the coming week. We had less than a week to schedule it. There would be some important emails around it as well.

As I’m headed into Monday, my inbox sits at 25/39. That’s typically how I count it: UNREAD/TOTAL. At times, as I try to whittle the list down, I’ll build a chart.


And then, each column is a separate time period. I’ll set goals: 50 messages down in the next 30 minutes, Below 60 before lunch.

But, no matter how many goals I set, no matter how much I whittled down my inbox, no matter how much water I bailed out of the pond, the next day, the next hour it would fill back up.

I don’t know that there is a way to divert the stream. I suppose I don’t really want to anyway. I like my job. I like my company. I would hate to leave it.

It just makes me insane.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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