Thursday Three #54

  1. Here’s an interesting article about whether style guides can help you write better. Style guides are useful for learning the basic rules of language and the peculiarities of an organization or publishing house, but they won’t make your writing better. The only way to do that is to read, and read a lot.
  2. Once upon a time, “Suga Suga” by Baby Bash was my jam. Then I heard a song (Robin Schulz’s “Sugar”) that heavily borrowed from it, and I thought… wow. You know you’re getting old when songs from your high school days are getting sampled into newer songs.
  3. Random “housekeeping” thing: I haven’t been checking my email address (maggie underscore smith at live dot com) because I rarely use it anymore and it won’t let me reset the password for some odd reason. So if you’ve emailed me there, I promise I’m not ignoring you. If you need to reach me, you’ll get a much faster response if you use quickstep 7 at gmail dot com.

Email Overload

I recently finished reading Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. It took forever to read because it was so long and touched on so many different (and interesting) topics related to the way humans think and how our minds do (and don’t) work. Even so, I highly recommend it if you like random facts.

The number one piece of information that I gleaned from the book (and which I will likely remember for the rest of my life) is that supposedly when you see an email pop up at the corner of your screen and you’re in the middle of doing something else, your IQ decreases by 10 points when you glance at the email out of the corner of your eye. Your attention has effectively been grabbed by the annoying popup, even though you may not be 100% focused on it, and it’s going to take a relatively long time to regain your flow and get back into what you were doing before the email hit.

At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to cut down on the amount of email I would get in my personal inboxes. That meant unsubscribing from what seemed like a million different listservs, and some of them won’t actually unsubscribe you the first time, so you have to keep unsubscribing until it finally sinks in on their end. So now I get about five emails a day in each inbox, which is far more manageable.

Unfortunately, at work, there is no similar way to cut down on email and distractions because 99% of the emails are from clients and contain useful/necessary information. So what I have learned to do is to turn off Outlook when I am in the middle of something important so that I can concentrate and not be distracted. This has worked quite well so far, but the only catch is that when I turn Outlook back on, I have to spend time going through the seemingly thousands of messages that accumulated in my absence.

So I suppose that email is just one of those necessary evils of life that you just have to deal with and try not to get overwhelmed by. There is even an Email Charter with guidelines on how to respect people’s inboxes and not get overburdened by the deluge.

How do you cut down on the email overload?

Gmail Likes to Put Words in My Mouth…

…and weird reminders on my calendar. It annoys me when I’m trying to email my friend and Gmail gives me suggestions of what to say that totally lack in personality and would be offensive if I actually sent them. I know the system is supposed to be intuitive, but have we gotten so lazy that we need to rely on Gmail to write our emails for us?

I know that some tablets and smartphones are actually pretty smart and over time, they learn your most commonly used phrases, so their suggestions actually sound like something you would realistically say. My smartphone has never adapted to my words, so I guess it’s not as smart as it pretends to be.

Another quirk of Gmail: every time someone sends me an email with a sentence that even vaguely seems imperative, Gmail wants me to add it to my calendar.* I got this one yesterday:


You know, it would be really nice if I could believe in whatever latest madness had occurred in the world. I’m naïve, but I’m not that naïve. 🙂

*I don’t use Gmail’s calendar anyway. For work stuff, I use Outlook. For other stuff, I use a paper planner.