Charles Petzold

New Year's Resolution

New Year's Eve
Roscoe, NY (and it's snowing again)

For as long as I can remember, my New Year's Resolution has been: Do something about my overflowing Inbox.

I am terrible — totally, totally, irresponsibly terrible — about answering email, and people who have actually received email responses from me should consider themselves privileged and special.

Here's how it works: Several times a day, I delete all the crap. (My email S/N ratio is less than 1%.) Then I'm left with stuff I should answer. It's not much, and I'm sure any sane person could easily manage. But I don't, and the Inbox just fills up with unanswered email, and the longer it gets, the more hopeless I feel, until at the end of the year, I just create a folder named "Inbox 200x" and move it all in, and never look at it again. (The only problem is, as the end of the year approaches — like today — I feel obliged to attempt one final push to answer some.)

A couple years ago, my New Year's Resolution was very specific: "A vertical scroll bar shall not appear in thy Inbox," and I think I actually managed for the early weeks of January.

I've read articles about dealing with email — phrases like "time management" and "prioritizing" don't really register with me. The trick in corporate America, of course, is to scribble off ungrammatical misspelled responses so everybody thinks you've got better things to do.

That's not what I need. What I really need is a way to stop feeling so damn guilty about it.