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A message from my potted palm

The prompt I needed to declutter my email inbox

Maryalicia Post

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2019

I got an email from my potted palm the other day. I was reminded of the letters I sent home from summer camp when I was a kid. No preamble, no ‘hope you’re well’.. Just straight into the complaint. The plant was reporting that it was thirsty and needed more sunlight. As it happened, I felt exactly the same, so I could hardly blame the plant. Still, receiving an email from a palm tree reminded me I’d been meaning to cut the clutter in my email box… and prodded me to start looking at all the good advice out there on the net.

If you are finding a marked increase in the volume of your email, it may be helpful to know it’s not you – it’s us. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. As a travel writer, for instance, I’m getting email from the tourist bureau of every place I’ve ever visited including some I hope never to visit again. Although the inbox of an ophthalmologist or other medical specialist is not as overloaded as that of general practitioners, there’s no escaping the trend and the overall trend is up across the board (regardless of your field of endeavour). An article in MD focuses on the physician’s problem and offers suggestions for dealing with it. Another handy list of tips is here.

Perhaps you’ve chosen to offer your patients the option of email communication with you – and there are arguments for and against offering this service. If you have opened email communication with patients, you’ve probably set up a secure email address for the purpose and may well have messages screened by an assistant, which makes life easier. Detailed advice for managing patient emails can be found here.

All this negative talk about emails doesn’t paint the whole picture. One article describes emails as “an exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services”. It talks about the feeling we all sometimes experience when a welcome message comes bounding in; it concludes that “email is exciting”.

And so it can be. To be honest, I didn’t really mind receiving that message from a thirsty plant and was glad to be reminded to water it (as for the sun shortage, I’ve ordered a grow light). Obviously, I could unplug the Bluetooth-enabled gizmo I stuck in the soil, thus cutting off communication at the root. But I’m not sure I am ready to ghost the palm tree so early in our relationship. A message from a potted palm seems ‘special’, like hearing from a distant star. Come to think of it, I’ll probably find a transmission from a distant star in my inbox one day. And when I do, it will be exciting.