I did some clearing out of my inbox last night. I’m pretty organized with folders, etc, but sometimes all the spam, various alerts and newsletters that I get clog up the works a bit.

I write to lots of people every week and like most I have this generalized background feeling of disappointment from time to time when my some of my emails (especially the ones that I worked really hard on) don’t get acknowledged or replied to. It’s a legacy, I guess, of the outernet, the age before we were all connected, when our inboxes looked a bit like this.

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It sounds like the stone age, but for most of us it was a recent as the early nineties (or as my kids describe it: “the olden days”).

We could see what we had to do and knew what we needed to respond to. It was an epoch when etiquette (without wishing to belittle its importance) was a simpler thing to administer.

Look at our ‘desks’ today and they are like this.

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An endless stream of correspondence, offers, chases, brief asides, tweets, alerts. Lots of things that we would have responded to get lost in the torrent. It’s not the fault of the recipient. It’s just that we’re having to play triage with the volume of things that are crossing our desks.

As I reduced the size of my inbox from an enormous 11,000+ emails to a more manageable number in the, ahem, ‘low thousands’, I thought of all the time I’ve wasted fretting over the absence of responses. It’s nothing personal – and as importantly, it’s no longer impersonal. We just can’t deal with everything anymore – especially not IN the moment.

We need to feel more comfortable with a chase – and less judgmental at having to do so. It isn’t bad manners at play here. It’s bad inbox.  If you want more certainty and a quicker response, you might be better off being a bit old fashioned and communicating offline.

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