After reading this week's AccountingWeb article about "Inbox infinity", how we manage our email inboxes came up in conversation regularly round the office.
Paul has a system set up to mark with an asterisk anything that comes in from "important clients". "The others can wait," he said. "The ones that pay on time, the ones that send their books in without any bodge-ups, they're the good ones and they get my quick attention. The others can wait."
"But shouldn't we be trying to teach them not to make bodge-ups?" inquired Maria. "Surely if they need more help, we should give them priority?"
"If I've tried to teach them and they won't listen, they don't get priority."
I can understand his point of view even if I don't agree with his approach. Personally, my emails get dealt with strictly in the order in which they arrive. First come, first served. More than five unread emails in my inbox and I start worrying.
"You'll spend all your time worrying if you take that attitude, Allie," said Paul, who will talk to me as if I was a junior just out of college. He annoys me sometimes. "You need to make them wait."
"It's worked for me so far," I pointed out.
Teresa, when we talked over coffee later, said that she has an app on her computer that filters out the important emails from the not-so-important ones. It looks for any emails that contain the word "urgent" and sends those to the top of her list.
"Don't your clients get wise to that?" I asked curiously.
"They don't seem to have cottoned on so far!" she smiled.
We speculated on what Henry and Jack do, given that Henry, in particular, is very bad at answering office emails. We usually have to go and talk to him, and if we ask if he's read an email he'll usually either say no or otherwise try and bluff his way through, but it'll be obvious he hasn't read it.
"Henry probably just waits for clients to get fed up and phone him," grinned Teresa.
We reminisced too about the auto-notifications that Outlook used to give us, with the Microsoft Assistant - paper-clip, cat or dog being the usual choices - appearing in the middle of the screen saying "New mail has arrived. Would you like to read it now?"
"Talk about breaking your concentration," we both agreed. "An email doesn't have to be attended to right this second. If it's that urgent, the client would have phoned."
"But then there are clients who phone about 10 minutes after emailing to say 'did you get my email'!"
"That's true! Maybe we should set up auto-responders to ask them to phone if it's really that urgent!"
And with it being January it probably is urgent... back to the books!