Monday, January 07, 2008

Queue Order vs. Stack Order?

Entry for 6 January 2008:

Our kids and Mayumi accompanied us to the aiport, to see us off. On the way, we resolved to work hard but not too hard and to have fun doing it. Brendan is keeping track of his hours working on his dissertation, which is helping him get focused for the push he’ll need to finish his doctoral dissertation this academic year. I vowed to do my email in forward temporal order (what Brendan refers to as “queue order”) rather in reverse temporal order (Brendan calls this “stack order”). I’ve been doing my email this way for the past several years, following the advice of Kelyn Roberts, one of my professors from graduate school. Kelyn claimed that research (e.g., in doctor’s offices) had shown the stack order was more efficient, i.e., reduced average waiting times.

However, this strategy has not been working for me, and has resulted in ever-worsening backlogs of unread email, and unhealthy binge-and-purge cycles, as witnessed over this vacation period: By the time most people stopped sending emails on 21 December, my in-box had mounted to nearly 1100 unread threads. Come to think of it, my old professor was actually pretty disorganized, so it may not have been good advice in the first place, even if it was an Evidence Based Email Strategy (EBES).

I have just spent a large part of my holiday sifting through the enormous pile of accumulated from the past 4 months, and have concluded that this strategy just isn’t working for me anymore. So for the new year I will attempt to deal with my email in queue order, and will see if that works any better.

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