A fellow email blood pressure sufferer

I just read David Anderson's post on how he just decided to Take Back His Life after his email inbox caused his email blood pressure to skyrocket.

David, you were getting 400 emails a day at the peak of the Beta 3 period for Team Foundation Server. I apologise - I was probably the sender of a large number of them...

I know exactly how you feel - in fact if I only received 20 emails an hour I think I'd be happy. I started getting this quantity of email when I first joined the team and rapidly realized I wasn't going to be able to cope using my previous strategies. Thanks to some advice from Chris Shaffer, our Test Manager, I discovered Getting Things Done and managed to get - and keep - things under control.

As a process for managing mail, this worked well - but for in parallel for a few years I have felt like I've been fighting with Outlook. It would take 10-15 minutes to open up and become responsive, and every so often would start giving me errors telling me it couldn't open or display folders because it was out of resources.

Two weeks ago I finally cracked. It reached the point where this was happening all the time. It became more and more difficult to manage my email and get things done - compounded by the fact that these issues had stopped autoarchive and email rules working, so my exchange mailbox reached it's max size and I couldn't even send mail any more. This was the point that my email blood pressure finally cracked - I felt more stress than I've felt in years.

I could no longer manage my email. And no-one knew why. We are lucky here to have a great internal support system - we first assumed that it was my client, but after reproing the issue on 4 machines (and baffling a friend of mine on the Outlook team) finally realized that we'd have to rebuild my exchange store.

After a week of basically being incommunicado, Outlook was back, I caught up - and I am so much happier. Outlook actually really performs quite well indeed and I now realize that for the past several years I've been working with one of my primary tools working at about 20% efficiency. If only I'd discovered this sooner, I wonder how much better my work/life balance might have been.

Comments (3)

  1. zzz says:

    If you are willing to live with such issues or mediocre performance for so long… (insert remark). Good thing there are performance teams looking and outside testers. One will probably get used to mediocre performance when doing alpha dog-fooding etc and then put up with it also with RTM products.

    Though it ain’t very productive necessarily to do the other extreme: Why does this thing hang for a minute while shutting down – well I’m going to figure this out even if it meant spending days learning new things and not doing things I should be doing… I am personally in this extreme, thus making my time of using computer mostly a diagnostic session of various issues.

  2. johnlawr says:

    Good question – why did I put up with it for so long? The answer is that I didn’t

    I have a nice paper trail with all my interactions with our support folks going back over the last couple of years. Every month or so an extensive debugging session which usually did result in some incremental improvements (but without fixing the root cause)- but at the cost of considerable lost time for me while they rebuilt local .ost files, outlook profiles, windows profiles etc.

    Every time I did that basically cost me a day or so of work – and my day is mostly spent meeting folks, on the phone to NC, or working through my 400 incoming emails and generating plenty more myself – so being tied to my desk without email is pretty crippling. Consequently I learnt mitigation strategies and only resorted to this when the situation got forced my email blood pressure too high.

    As far as debugging it myself, I did as much as I could with the time I have available (that you sysinternals.com for your awesome collection of tools…). Ultimately this one baffled the guys who actually wrote the code in the first place so I don’t feel too bad that I didn’t figure it out…

    Does this kind of mediocre performance lower my expectations? Maybe – that’s a good observation I’ll have to think about some, but the checks and balances we have across with our perf & QA teams are indeed intended to ensure we don’t let this kind of performance become acceptable. I can assure our dogfood customers would not let us get away with it either…

  3. Garry Trinder says:

    hei, where’s the Chinese Restaurant picture gone?

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