There’s just no getting away from it, for most people at work email is the dominant communication channel, invariably accounting for more information, actions and expectations than conference calls and meetings combined. Therefore, we can not start to master our workload until we master the inbox.

The ruthless reality for many is that whilst they are still winning most days, they are surfing on the edge of chaos – juggling a number of lists (including their inbox, their note pads and their memory) and invariably not achieving what they set out to do on their way into work. The personal price of their victory is often very heavy. See my notes on the latest research into the increasing stress levels experienced in this recession

Far too many good people feel they are slaves to their inbox.

They feel that they ‘have’ to sit in there. Many who we work with admit initially that their inbox is yet another too-long To-Do list.

Lets be clear here, unless you are in a level 1 or 2 support role, you don’t need to have your in box open all the time. And if you are a level 1 or 2 support person there are better support management tools than the inbox to manage your workload anyway.

Because Dr Pavlov was right, most peoples’ inbox management is wrong.

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904 for his original work into studying the mechanisms underlying the digestive system in mammals. But it is not for this that he is famous. No, he is remembered for his experiments with dogs.

Pavlov’s discovery was that environmental events that previously had no relation to a given reflex (such as a bell sound) could, through experience, trigger a reflex (salivation). This kind of learnt response is called ‘Conditioned Reflex’, and the process whereby dogs or humans learn to connect a stimulus to a reflex is called ‘Conditioning’.

Pavlov’s dogs:
Environmental event > Bell:
Conditioned Reflex > Salivation
Environmental event > Email alert:
Conditioned Reflex > stop what you are doing and open the mail.

All we can truly manage is our focus and energy moment to moment and the horrible reality is that living in the inbox destroys both. See

See this post for the big difference between Multitasking and Continuous Partial Attention (CPA)
Finally, for those who compose their emails on the run, whilst attempting a couple of other things, check out this article on 10 ways to get your busy boss to action your emails now

What is your take on this, I’m curious to know; do drop me a comment below.