OPERATOR ERROR

Have you dealt with someone recently and discovered they have absolutely NO computer common sense at all?  I’m not talking about your 60-year-old mother, I mean someone you consider a peer? I have. It’s surprising in this world of Facebook, Twitter, email, iPhones, and Blackberries, but it’s true – some people are just a little behind the curve. What I found really surprising was for that curve to involve email. Aren’t we all on the same page regarding email? Nothing tricky involved. No code writing. Just click (new), type, attach, click (send).

I received a call from an individual I emailed recently. They asked if I could resend an email (and attachment), but to not write anything in the body so they could “forward” without my comments. If I had sound effects at my desk you would have heard the screeching of tires. I was literally speechless. My mouth kept moving, but nothing came out. In my head, I tried and discarded many questions, all of which were potentially insulting. I finally stammered my way into asking if they didn’t want to just save the attachment to their own computer so they would 1) have it as a reference and 2) be able to attach it to as many emails as they liked. This elicited a response about how they “used to try to save attachments but could never find them again.” (No doubt saving to the mysterious default location, instead of selecting a nice logical file folder.)

Another disturbing request was made that I resend an email the recipient accidentally deleted. I gently suggested they search in their email trash (deleted items) folder for it, but was informed they never bothered to create a trash folder, therefore didn’t have one. I sighed heavily and gave up. So much for teaching self-sufficiency.

Yet another individual continues to fax revisions and mark ups, or worse yet, call and expect someone to take  dictation over the phone. It’s the 21st century people. Let’s all agree to take a basic computer course if such is needed, (it is) and stop pretending. No harm, no foul.

I’ll send you an Outlook appointment for a course. You just open it, click accept and…

Outlook is the name of your email system.

?

Microsoft Outlook.

?

No, it’s not the same as Microsoft Word.

?

Do you use the schedule? The calendar?

?

No. The one on the computer. In Outlook. There’s email and a calendar…

?

Nevermind. I’ll resend that email right away. Yes, blank.

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DISTRACTIBLE ME

I either have A.D.D. or unrealistic expectations. At one point I had a mind like a steel trap. Nothing escaped me. Now, I think I’m senile. I blame technology. More specifically, email. For some reason I feel I have to respond to every request as it comes in. Instead of working on one project at a time, I juggle priorities on the fly, picking and sorting by time required and potential for success.

What’s that?  So-and-so needs a brochure to show a potential client? Well, I can take care of that in 15 minutes, then get back to the budget I was working on. Problem is, by the time I finish that, another request comes in, and another, then someone’s standing at my desk because they just sent me an email and I didn’t respond within 5 seconds. It’s not like I’m just sitting around HOPING someone will impede my progress on whatever it was I started earlier that I have now forgotten about completely. 

I know it’s especially bad when I go to the little Outlook icon at the bottom of my screen and see that I have 8 emails open. I go through each to see why and find that I have composed an email response to one, but then apparently was interrupted and never sent it. The others are all open because they contain some little task that is currently in progress because I am jumping from one thing to another  like a crazed frog. Tasks-10, Ann-0.  Not winning.

By the end of the day, the to-do list I started with is still staring at me and nothing has been crossed off.  I add a half-dozen carry-overs for the next day.  Lastly, I assure each person I will indeed deliver whatever it is they want into their hot little hands “YESTERDAY,” and I prepare to turn off my computer.   

A warning pops up asking if I would like to exit without saving. Saving what? I click on the program and up pops the very first thing I started this morning. The budget. With a sigh, I save and close. Tomorrow will be a better day. I will complete tasks.  I will not be interrupted by this roving band of well-intentioned hijackers I call my co-workers. 

There.  I feel better alre

ON THE OUTS WITH MY INBOX

There are two types of people in the world – holders and deleters. Deleters are those who read an email and then get rid of it via the delete button, or by processing it into a task or folder. Their email boxes contain a few dozen email at the most.  Holders save the email for future reference and are intimately familar with the “Search” feature of Outlook. As I write this, my work email box contains 4,270 items. I am obviously a “holder.”  Maybe even a hoarder. 

 

When I confessed my situation to my friend, the Duchess, she was appalled. (The Duchess is nothing if not organized and orderly.) “But your inbox is like your to-do list!  Don’t you feel overwhelmed with thousands of email sitting there?”

Why, yes. Yes, I do.

The problem seems to be an organizational one. Or perhaps it’s a prioritization issue. Or paranoia. (I seem like that type.) I’ve tried filing them in my “cabinet,” but then my cabinet is crowded with email I never reference. I spent one afternoon about 6 months cleaning out. I reduced to about 500 items and felt lighter than air. I walked around bragging about how I had “…just pressed delete.” Simple as that. My fellow hoarders were amazed and jealous. I preached, “Just pretend the server went down and you lost it all. Totally out of your control.” But here I sit, back up to 4,200+.

I don’t know how to explain the level of panic that sets in when I consider deleting thousands of email again.  It’s not as if I have regretted it for a second. No issue has arisen that required my searching through email to prove a string of communication, or vindicate myself. It’s just that every now and then I run across something I had forgotten to do, and it justifies holding onto these little electronic marching orders.

I practically dream about an inbox with a merely handful of emails.  As I complete each task, or respond to each request, I DELETE the email and move on to the next item of business. What does THAT feel like?

Maybe I’ve worked at my firm too long. There are ten years of communications involved. I receive probably 25+ emails a day, so when you look at it that way, it could be much worse. Haven’t you ever lived somewhere and accumulated so much STUFF – stashed in boxes or stuck in the back of closets – that you realized the only way you would ever go through all of it and clean out was if you moved? That’s how I feel about my electronic missives. Only quitting my job seems a drastic method of dealing with my inbox OCD.

I need a fresh start. It’s time. Spring cleaning and all that. I am taking a deep breath, envisioning a bright, shiny new inbox, devoid of content. I am stretching my fingers toward CTRL A and hitting DELETE.

Any minute now. Really.