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  My Wife and Times

Daniel Will Harris

The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris, author of My Wife and Times. —Ed].


POP Quiz

By Daniel Will Harris

Are you keeping up with your e-mail? Here's a test. Don't be afraid, this *won't* go on your permanent record.

This is a story question--I know you didn't like those in school, but you can do it! Plus, the answers are at here so you can cheat really easily if you want, and no one will be the wiser-including you, because you'll learn nothing if you don't try this. One tip, always round up to the quarter hour because in the real world, things are bound to take longer--usually twice as long, but we'll just ignore reality as most tests do.

OK, here goes...

Your site is doing well, getting good traffic, and people are e-mailing you like crazy. In fact, on average, you receive one e-mail every seven minutes, 24 hours a day (your site's seen all over the world, remember?)

Not all that's useful e-mail, because the mail that arrives every 16 minutes is spam. Unfortunately, your spam filter only catches half of that. It takes 15 seconds to scan an email and delete it.

You want to answer all your email, but that takes time. At your very fastest, it takes two minutes to answer an e-mail, but to answer it thoroughly and politely (so that people will remember you when it's time to buy your products or services), it takes at least five minutes. So average that out and figure out how long it takes to answer the e-mail you received today. You also follow 1/10th of the links in the e-mails, which takes, on average, five minutes per link.

  • Now, figure out how many new e-mails you've received during this time.
  • And how long it will take to answer these.
  • And how many new ones you'll receive while answering those.
  • Now, calculate what percentage of all the e-mail you've received is spam offering get-rich schemes, home loans, ink jet supplies or x-rated sites? Multiply this by 24 for no particular reason, then ignore this figure.
  • Finally, if you have an average 8-hour work day, how much time do you have left to do real work? And, how many people got off the train in New Rochelle?

If you figured out that it took between 9 hours and 45 minutes, and 10 hours and 15 minutes to answer all your e-mail, you're close, but you left out the 84 you got while answering the last batch, so basically, trying to answer all your e-mail is kind of like trying to pay off a credit card balance with the minimum payment--it's impossible if you also need to get anything else done--like have a job or a life. It's like one of those time travel conundrums from Star Trek.

If you feel overwhelmed (and are still reading, because, after all, this is yet another e-mail!) then you need The Happy Valley Virtual Rest Home's program for the "e-mail obsessed and overwhelmed."

STEP 1: Clear out your Inbox. I recommend moving your messages (I had 336 in my inbox) to a new folder, called "old inbox." Easy enough, and it takes just seconds!

STEP 2: Arrange to have all your e-mail sent through the Happy Valley Virtual Rest Home's special "Mailagator" server, which deletes every message immediately. This means your inbox remains pristinely empty, and you are relieved of all that e-mail stress.

Should people call and wonder why you never responded, you can honestly say you never received the message, and there must be something wrong with your e-mail server. You can then give them the HVVRH phone number, which is guaranteed to always be busy.

STEP 3: There is no step three. See how easy it is?

OK, the HVVRH thing is a joke (don't e-mail me for the URL, it doesn't exist!), but the *problem* of answering e-mail is real (reading e-mail isn't a problem, so please don't stop).

As machines get faster (yet we stay the same speed), and more people from around the world can contact us simultaneously (yet we can still only have one real conversation at a time), our lives start to seem like the "chocolate factory" episode of "I Love Lucy." Things are coming at us faster than we can handle them. Some chocolate is bound hit the floor (or the fan).

That doesn't excuse companies where no one ever answers the e-mail (like my recent experience with Network Solutions trying to fix an incorrect domain name listing for my sister's saddle company--a process that's gone on for two weeks now with no solution, and no real person I can talk to). If you want less e-mail, try to make your site answer people's questions so they don't have to write. They will, anyway, since it's easier than looking, but it can help.

And if you run a small business--then all you can do is all you can do. So remember, there are people at the other end of all that e-mail, be patient, or if at first you don't get an answer, e-mail, e-mail again. (Please don't feel obligated to reply to this email however ;-).

dwh sig

My Wife and Times Cover
If you would like to read more fabulous stories, you need Daniel Will Harris’s My Wife and Times. The 148 page book contains stories that are conveniently short, perfect for bedtime reading, or between airport friskings. Price: $15 postpaid and is available for purchase online at or on





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