Inbox Zero

Interview with Cal Newport, author of 'A World Without Email' | Fortune

This week I heard on the radio that the average person has 1602 unread emails. The average person has 47 unread text messages. Some more findings from this study:

1.  Unread emails are still far more common than unread texts.  Two-thirds of us currently have unread emails in our inbox . . . the average is 1,602 of them.

2.  32% of people said they have ZERO unread emails right now.

3.  Texting is still the fastest-growing form of communication.  51% of people say they’re texting more than they were a year ago.

4.  The top people we enjoy getting a text from are our friends and siblings, followed by our parents.

5.  The #1 person we DON’T want to get a text from is our boss.  But the poll also found that texting people at work is much more common than it used to be.

I have multiple emails, and I consistently trim my email to inbox zero. Cal Newport’s  A World Without Email. Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload was one of the best books I read last summer.

If I thought inbox zero was some sort of accomplishment, this study shows that’s nothing quite spectacular, because I am around the same as 1/3 of people. My inbox zero strategy includes not responding to emails, and also removing those emails from my inbox. It also includes pushing all listserv emails directly into the delete pile.

Neither by intention or design, but many listservs feel like little cuts each time I go through them. It’s like a steady stream of law professors, all who are so erudite and kind, but it’s a company in which I am out of place.

I was really struck by the recent eulogizing of Lynton Caldwell on the environmental law listserv. He was part of UN public administration programs on behalf of the U.S. in parts of the world that the U.S. would go to destabilize and exploit over the next several decades for their natural resources. Anywhere the U.S. sets foot, it just destroys. Caldwell also is responsible for NEPA. I have devoted 35% of my early academic writing to NEPA, so I shouldn’t complaint that much.

At the same time, I cannot but help look at the world except through the gaze of the daughter of former colonial subject. That vantage point shapes how I view the world and its laws.  

Lyton Caldwell was a contemporary of my grandfather’s uncle, Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah. They may have even known each other, because they both moved in international law circles. Caldwell was also stationed in Turkey for a year, where Dr. Hamidullah would spend his summers. Caldwell lived to be 92. Dr. Hamidullah made it to 94, but died stateless as the last citizen of the Nizam state of Hyderabad. He didn’t marry, because he said he would only go back and marry in Hyderabad, which was complicated by the fact he spoke out against the Indian government at the newly formed United Nations in 1948. Therefore, he had to live in exile. When he would write letters to his family, he would just put his initials, “meem” and “ha.” He never made it back to India after his UN speech. The Indian government is like that.

Dr. Hamidullah also made a point to respond to all letters he received in the mail.

I wonder what he would do with listservs? I feel like he wouldn’t be a part of that nonsense.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

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Nadia Ahmad

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