About being sensible

Missives from Hothouse Design

View all blog posts

Email overload and the madness of digital hoarding

Deirdre Wilson – Tuesday, March 15, 2016   


The inventor of email has died. I wonder if he ever thought that email would bring out the hoarder in most of us. Email has been around for over 40 years. I remember how wondrous and clunky it seemed when I first came across it when working in a research role at a Uni back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was the stuff of the future. There was no hint at the time that this weird, clunky communication system would become the most seductive form of fools' gold.

The same week that the inventor of email died, we had two clients call in an agitated state because they have email problems. In both cases they had far too much mail sitting in either their sent mail or inbox and in one case having too much mail stopped their mail working at all.

You can have too much email. Email systems are not bottomless pits and there isn't fuller than full. After full comes collapse, there is just a tiny moment prior to collapse when we delude ourselves that the meaning of full has changed to something meaning 'not quite full'.

Full mail folders are a common form of madness. In the process of learning how to use email we seem to have lost the ability to discriminate between gold, useful stuff and other stuff that can be sourced somewhere else later on. The must be a part of us that thinks our email contains some wonderful opportunity or insanely useful bit of info that will tilt the world off its axis.

Full mail box = no more deliveries. It's that simple. If that is not enough, email is 'returned to sender' when your mailboxes are full - you are now impacting on others who can't send because you aren't using your tools properly - that is not good for business.

When email stops working most people become utterly unproductive and just a little bit panicky. At that point there is no choice but to stop and clean up the mess. Bad luck if you had something more important to do that day.

It is easy to get organised with email. Add extra folders and work out how to use Rules to get the system to sort stuff for you. And empty the trash. You do it at home. It's the same thing. Rant over.

Further Reading

Email is time-sapping, need more time in your day?  Read on... 
- I found extra time in my day - want to know how?

This post is by Deirdre Wilson, Director of Hothouse Design – Australia's most sensible information design company.
Deirdre applies her background in industrial design and design management to the complex and wondrous projects undertaken by Hothouse Design.

Basics. Know what they are. Get them right. Repeat.

About being sensible.

Reading List

Reading List

Find great books to read in our reading list. Purchase through our links to support the charities we support through our affiliate programs.

Latest book suggestion:

Turn the ship around! by David Marquet


Affliate Programs

Lynda.com and Amazon are the two affiliate programs we are in. We chose these because they are our favourite learning sources. Revenue from these affiliate programs is split between the charities we have as paying clients at the end of each financial year.

Tools we use