I was on vacation this week. This was the classic familyvacation. I get sick of flying so one of our favorite things is to take our RV somewhere. To me, there is nothing better than the classic “road trip.”  I would never call it camping, however, as the biggest part of “roughing it” is having to connect the sewer line at the campsite. Although I did first think the movie “RV” was a documentary.

Having lived most of my life in Colorado, I have had to get used to some new driving styles. Boston and New York are always fun in an RV, but I found the greater Washington D.C. area to take the slight edge over Florida as the new “Road Warrior” capital of the world.

Remember this Mel Gibson classic? Well, I think Mel would have even found it tough on the beltway. We were just driving through but, from what I could tell, they have no actual traffic laws in Maryland or Northern Virginia. I kept looking for cameras as I thought they were filming another Fast and Furious sequel. It really got fun to watch when the traffic stopped. There were no rules; grass, medians, breakdown lanes were all were fair game. Maybe they all have diplomatic immunity.

But I digress. When I am on vacation I always have one key decision to make – what do I do with the Blackberry? Do I just leave it at home, or do I bring it but confine myself to a peak at night, or do I sneak peaks at every opportune moment? Well, you all probably know the answer. Here is a photo of a typical Blackberry moment on a different trip while waiting for a ferry (the other person is Mark Sorenson - also infected by the same disease). 

Blackberry

This trip was to Disney World, still one of my favorite places to hang out even as an “old man” (as described by my son Jeff). This visit was even better since we lucked out and missed a miserable week of weather up here in Boston.

So, as far as I can tell, my roles on a family vacation are: driver, entertainment advisor, set-up and tear-down guy, activity planner and, of course, ATM machine. Actually, it may sound funny but I enjoy these roles very much and wouldn’t want to change it a bit - except maybe the ATM machine part…. 

So, even with the FastPass systems (which are a great improvement – thanks Mickey), I have found that an amusement park vacation will always give me plenty of “line time” to catch up on Email. There are lines for everything: to get in, to get out, to go on a ride, to catch a bus, to eat -- so reading email is almost like sitting in the office except that there are some short breaks to launch into space, take on an uncharted river, or capture a dinosaur. You know the drill.

I justify my reading email as a win-win as I hate lines, so catching an Email or two makes them more tolerable (hey everyone needs to rationalize it somehow). Also it is a lot safer than trying to sneak a peak while driving. I think I even get “cool” points from the other kids in line as they think I have a cool video game. I just tell them it is the new Nintendo; why spoil the moment – they will soon learn the truth…  

So, with all of this technology and time, was I actually that productive? I am not so sure.

The revelation hit me when my wife said (after I ignored the whole conversation in a particularly long line) “OK you just read 200 Emails; how many were important?” I thought about it and had to admit that no more than 10 were even worth reading. So what were the other 190? Well there was some SPAM, but actually, not that much. There were, of course, the threads that we all somehow get cc’d on that never seem to go away. Far and away though, the bulk of the email was automated newsletters, and notifications. 

To generalize I call it Stupid Trivial Unnecessary Fluff and Fodder or “STUFF” for short.

It all started out as a good idea – let’s just send an Email if “X” occurs or if “Y” doesn’t happen. Heck, let’s just send a daily note giving you basically the same info as yesterday. Let’s send out 5 reminders instead of 2. Let’s cc everyone on this just in case. We know it is good to have STUFF and it is good to know STUFF so, it is logical, that we should always want more STUFF. If you don’t need certain STUFF, it only takes a few seconds to delete it – no big deal. What I realized was that, when viewed individually, this is great logic but the problem comes when we start to get hundreds of these Emails every day; those seconds, and the STUFF, adds up. 

As I have written before – there has to be a better way. Yes, we all want the information available but, more importantly, we need more efficient ways to manage all of the data streams that are hitting us.

Something to think about… 

And yes, I am working on my Email addiction and looking for a 12 step program.

Mark…

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