Managing Email Quagmires

Sometimes it’s the little things that mess up your day. For me, these little things usually come in over email. I like to check my email. It’s a little social tether to the world outside my home office. And I usually do it first thing in the morning. It gets me to my desk and gives me something to that I can handle before the coffee kicks in. But sometimes tasks or projects come in over email that are too big to tackle in the time I allot for my morning email check. And—until recently—I didn’t know what to do about those. I tried flagging them. I tried dealing with everything immediately or marking the onerous-task emails as unread. But this either made me unable to manage my time or inevitably let some requests slip down to the never-look-again territory of “Off the Screen.” And once that happened, they would be forgotten forever.

And then I discovered Sandy. Though Sandy is digital and lives online, she is my new personal assistant. She’ll do all sorts of things…or, well, she doesn’t actually do anything but she will remind me to do things. Sometimes that’s enough.

Her specialty is email. I signed up, got a private email address for Sandy and started including her in my email conversations. So, say an editor sends me an email asking for some screen shots to go with something I’ve written. That’s too big a task to do in the 30 minutes I have to read email. And the project isn’t in a big rush anyway. I know I’ll have time later in the day but I might forget between now and then. (This has happened to me enough that I know it will happen again.) So I reply to the email and copy Sandy. Like this:

Hey Jane,

Sure, I’ll get you those screens by Friday, okay?

Sandy, remind me today at 4pm to get these screens for Jane.



And, like an efficient secretary, Sandy will send me an email at 4 with this reminder—including the original email. If that’s still not a convenient time, I can just respond to Sandy with orders to snooze the reminder for another hour. She is a very helpful gal, this Sandy. In fact, I’ve only touched the surface of the stuff she’ll do. And she’s free.

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