March 14, 2021

Never Ending Email

I don’t like to spend a ton of time in my email inbox. I don’t keep email open all day long. I turned off mail notifications years ago.

Email is clearly a valuable business communication tool, but it also distracting. I have been trying to strike the perfect balance between quickly acting on what is important while not getting lost in the sea of messages for years. I have failed. I am willing to admit that I am “bad at email”.

What does it even mean to be “bad at email”? A better term might be inefficient. I felt like I was spending a lot of time dealing with email, but I still felt unorganized and behind.

I would commonly leave things unread in my inbox and allow things to stack up. I found myself skimming through a huge list of unread email to make sure there wasn’t anything critical there while keeping a ton of emails that I just needed to come back and read later sitting there to distract me another day.

There is this term “inbox zero” out there that was coined years ago by Merlin Mann. People commonly think that literally means a state with zero messages in your inbox. I think that is wrong. I was achieving that from time-to-time after much effort, but it could only ever last for a few minutes. Email was always coming, now matter how much I tried to keep it at bay.

Over the last couple of weeks I have tried to get a point where I am spending as little time in my inbox as possible, but I am able to process through all of my messages and get caught up. This is a process commonly known as triaging your inbox. This is a simple concept, but thus far it has proved extremely valuable to me.

Checking Email

I have split apart the concepts of checking email and actually dealing with email. Checking email is quickly processing through my inbox and making decisions about each message. There can be 1 of 4 actions…

  1. Delete/Archive - I’m not going to differentiate these 2. Both of them result in an email disappearing directly from the inbox likely to never be seen again. I will delete if I know it is worthless. I will archive if there is a chance I might need to refer back to it again.
  2. Action - I have a folder that I call “Action”. I will move an email here if I need to respond to that email, or it contains a task that I need to complete. I will not do anything with it at that moment other than file it into my action folder to be dealt with later. Even if I think I might need to respond I will throw it into my action folder. If it turns out I don’t… great.
  3. Waiting - This is another folder that I use for items that don’t require me to do anything right now, but they are of interest to me and I want to make sure and follow up with them later if nothing else happens in the thread. I have considered calling this folder “Attention” because they are items that I want to pay attention to.
  4. Reference - There are items that I need to read later and want to make sure and keep them around. Again, I won’t read the message while I am merely processing through my inbox. I will keep it unread and move it to my reference folder.

Dealing With Email

I typically get over 100 emails a day. I pop into my inbox 3–4 times a day and try to weed through my list of unread as quickly as possible. I will take one of those 4 actions until my inbox is clear, then I will get out of email again.

Dealing with email is something I strive to do 2–3 times per day. I try to keep this as short as possible, but I still end up allocating around 30 minutes per day at a bare minimum. Sometimes it end up being much longer than that.

I will open my Action folder and respond to messages in the order I have received them. Once I have responded I will archive the message so it is no longer visible in my action folder.

I will look at the waiting folder and reference how long messages have been sitting here. If a thread has gone quiet for a period of time I may send a message asking for an update.

I will read through a few of the emails in my reference folder and decide what needs to happen to them. Typically I will archive them from that folder so I can search for and reference them if something comes up.

Conclusions

Thus far I am spending more time in email than I was before. However, it feels more focused. I have a system that will keep me from missing important emails. It is embarrassing how simple it is. I feel like I have tried systems like this before, but for some reason they didn’t stick. Hopefully this time I have found something sustainable.

I am two weeks into my experiment at this point and I feel like my email is staying under control. We will see what happens if things get extremely busy and I fall behind. I am going to do my best to allocate a little extra time each day to email so that doesn’t happen.

February 14, 2021

The Little Things

I watched The Little Things on HBO. This is the second Warner Brothers movie they have released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. So far they are 0 for 2. The first was Wonder Woman 84. I did not enjoy that movie at all. The Little Things was not as bad as WW84, but it also didn’t do anything new or exciting.

I’m a sucker for a cop drama or a serial killer movie. I was predisposed to enjoy this movie. The story was good enough to keep me interested and watching until the end [1]. That doesn’t mean it was a great story. Pacing felt extremely slow at times. There wasn’t a satisfying resolution in my opinion.

Aside from some awkward plotting and scenes with questionable acting, my main criticism with The Little Things is how familiar it felt. This could have been one of several cop/killer movies that came out in the 90’s.

In reading about the movie I learned that it was actually written in the early 90’s… which makes a ton of sense. It never got picked up by a director back then so it has been sitting on a shelf only to be dusted off and released in one of the most challenging times for film ever. They didn’t re-write the scrip, so it was needlessly set in 1990.

The Little Things wasn’t a bad movie. It was sort of entertaining to watch Denzel, Rami, & Jared act out these roles. Was it worth 2 hours of my life? I don’t know about that. Hopefully HBO Max has some winners this year in the direct-to-streaming releases. They aren’t off to a very good start.


  1. This is something WW84 could not achieve. I only made it to the end because we were talking about it on our podcast.  ↩

January 24, 2021

Palm Springs

 Palm Springs was a great movie. It was very funny, but also profound. If you have Hulu you should definitely check this movie out if you haven’t already. I was lucky enough to start this movie completely ignorant of the premise. That was a great experience. If you are still pure, stop reading and go watch the movie. 

You can assume the rest of this post is going to spoil Palm Springs

You learn about the premise very early on in the movie, but those first 10 minutes are something special if you have no idea what is happening. 

This is the newest entrance into the sub-genre of movie that I will just call a Groundhog Day film. The protagonist is cursed to live the same day over-and-over again. Typically he is the only one experiencing the repetitive nature of the day. 

In Palm Springs, Nyles (Andy Samberg) is forever reliving the day of his girlfriends friend’s wedding… in Palm Springs. He seems pretty numb to his existence until he inadvertently gets the bride’s sister Sarah (Cristin Milioti) stuck in the same time loop. 

This is the first repeating day movie where it has really dawned on me what a metaphor for our existence they are. We are all stuck in our daily routines, becoming numb to the things that really matter the most in our lives. This has never been more true than over the last 10 months as the entire world has struggled through COVID-19. 

Palm Springs turned out to be a perfect metaphor for life right now. It really highlighted how lucky some of us are to be going through that life with people you love. 

It was a phenomenal movie that I will surely revisit in the next several weeks. I want to watch it again with my wife. I think she will really like it. My only real criticism of the movie is that I wasn’t sure how I felt about the extremely scientific resolution. I didn’t dislike it, but it also felt strange. Maybe I can grapple with that a little more on my second watch. 

I have read a couple of articles about the movie that state that is supposed to be open-ended at the conclusion. I didn’t get that at all. I also don’t feel like it could even be read as open-ended based on the interaction with the family. I’d love to hear from you if you can explain a reading of the film where they didn’t both get out of the time loop. 

I guess if you really don’t like Andy Samberg you might want to avoid Palm Springs. It is filled with his brand of humor, and he is on screen almost the entire time. For me those were both a positive. I loved it!

January 3, 2021

Bart Simpson Mania


I can distinctly remember the first episode of The Simpsons. I think it came out when I was about 8 years old. My oldest brother wanted to watch it, but we were going to be gone that evening for something. We set the VCR to record it. 

I watched that episode of The Simpsons several times. We usually gathered around the TV most weeks to watch The Simpsons all together. I didn’t think of it as a big deal or controversial at all. I do remember Bart being seen as a “shocking” character early on. As a very respectful and obedient child he was quite a curiosity for me. 

At some point I bought a Bart t-shirt from the local gas station. I have to imagine it was a bootleg. I know I had one with Bart skateboarding that said “cowabunga dude”. I feel like I also had a shirt with his famous catchphrase “Eat My Shorts”, but that could have been just a fantasy. 

Looking back on it, it seems strange that I was allowed to watch the show considering all of the controversy described in the podcast. I continued watching it for the next few years, but I wasn’t a diehard fan like many of my peers. At some point I moved on to watching South Park & Bevis and Butthead. 

My daughters are both around the same age as I was when I started watching the Simpsons. For the last several years I have said that I was going to re-start watching The Simpsons and see if I could make it through those supposedly magical fist 7 seasons. I have put it off long enough where now I feel like I want to bring my daughters along on that journey with me. 

For some reason I still feel like I shouldn’t let them watch it. I cannot explain why I feel that way. Surely The Simpsons is much tamer than most of the kids shows these days. I really can’t say. I guess we will find out.