08 August 2013

wheat and chaff

Wednesdays are incredibly busy in our lives. We have a plethora of weekly tasks, and some monthly events as well. We do not get paid for any of the things we do, but Sue and I run from about dawn to midnight. Yesterday was a particularly dense day. I launched a 3 hour run on my pc, and then went to bed, at 11:50.

This morning I faced over 120 emails, all claiming a need for my attention. Some of the messages really do need my response, most do not. In fact, despite the best spam filters I can deploy, the majority are opportunities to spend or donate money I simply do not have. One of my favorites is a cooking / foodie site that offers me new knives with, "$100 off!") I have a few very good knives that I treasure and rely on for almost everything. Like most good cooks I know, we treasure our "professional grade" knives. But any offer for any product that is discounted $100, is almost certainly not in my spending parameters.

So what to do with that many filtered messages? I have developed a sort of site scan. I select the articles with sources I recognize as marketers, those with give away titles like, "we miss you" from places I do not know, and I make bulk deletes. That usually pares the mail down a lot, but today I still had 85 messages.

Wait, 85? Are there 85 conversations, organizations or notes I really need to read? Nope! In fact, I can cut the rest in about half. But that means I have to actually read 43 messages! Really? I am simply not that important to that many people. What to do?

Yahoo offers another sort of scan function. I can go from titles to short extracts, sort of like the ones provided by MS Outlooktm. With that I perform another scan. A very few messages are filed in various folders, often without my reading them. Consider a confirmation of a user group meeting I attend every month. If I do not see the confirm, I would think something had failed, but if I do, I have no need to read it. I make more cuts.

At the end of the process I read and respond to perhaps 35 messages. In one or two specialized folders including one for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, I read anything in the space.

But by the time this is all done, I have spent an hour. Is it worth the effort? I suppose I could limit the messages I see more strictly. Yahoo and most other mail servers offer good filtration options. But then, I fear, I might miss something.

f This exercise, which to some extent is a feature of almost all American personal and business lives, takes a lot of time. In the executive offices or partner offices of businesses and large law firms, there are, Administrative Assistants who filter with a sterner and more discerning eye than any program can deliver. That keeps CEO's and Senior Partners away from the process and permits them to function.

What about the rest of us? Is filtering out the chaff the highest and best use of someone's time? Do we think we pay for productivity when technician level and mid-level managers spend some of their time reading and responding to the items in their .net or outlook boxes?

We are forced to separate the chaff from the chaff. Heaven help the middle manager who makes an error and does not respond to a senior vice=president's wife! But there is Babel out there and so someone has to toss the crop into the air, and see what falls quickly, and ignore what blows away.

It is an interesting metaphor isn't it? Each of us has her or his set of filters. Many of us filter out obvious porn, marketing messages, and the inevitable opportunities to get closer to someone's personal version of the Bible. We send some less important mail into holding folders, and try to address the really important.

How is that going for you? Is you life filtered in the right way? Do you pay attention to the important or the do you chase all the messages in an unending spiral of overload? Do you find time for yourself, and your spiritual journey?

Those are not trivial questions. How we answer them says a lot about us. The US Army has built a profile of the likely service person who suicides. Predictably it is controversial because it includes an inventory of "Spiritual Life" even though it is carefully non-sectarian. Still the facts remain and the Army which deals with a lot of suicides after combat stress, has history to draw from in its work.

On Wednesdays I find myself less sure than I wish, that I have things together. I do manage a half hour of centering or rosary prayer. I suppose that is close to coping.

So how is the journey going for you? It is not a trivial question, it tells you something important about the filters you use in life.

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