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Saturday, 2 April 2011
Here you are reading a blog. So, as a user of this new-fangled World Wide Web thing, the chances are that you also, like me, get far too much e-mail.
I don't just mean the tired old stuff asking please could I deposit $10,000,000,000,000,000 from my uncle in the Libyan Government in your bank account for a bit, or how I made $1,000 per hour with a can't-fail scheme that anyone can follow from the comfort of their home. Those are instant-delete, and actually don't take up too much effort.
The worst e-mails are genuine ones asking you to do something time-consuming with possibly some small benefit to yourself. You are a busy man or woman. You have your own projects. But these at least deserve the courtesy of a polite and (briefly) considered reply. You make a start on them, and there is half a day of your life gone, never to be seen again.
There are many automatic e-mail filters and prioritizers out there, but I would like to propose a new one:
Sort e-mails by the average time you took to respond to the sender in the past, with the shortest times at the top.
Your e-mail system would then learn the people to whom you like to reply quickly, and put their e-mails at the head of your queue. It would be simple for the e-mail system to calculate, and it could even be set up retrospectively by having the software run through your existing Sent mailbox compiling the initial set of averages.
Simple, self-modifying, and useful, it would adapt as you worked. And you could just go down through the top few every day and then stop, confident that you have answered the e-mails most important to you.