14 December 2010

Taming the Beast: Parental Mail Edition

My parents send me articles in the mail. Lots of them.  I have complained about it here before, but I don't think I captured the shear magnitude of the situation.

I will say that sometimes their assorted reading materials provides me with some absolute gems. For example, they recently passed along a Halloween card from my long-deceased grandmother. It filled me with a wonderful nostalgia, and the wobbly script of the greeting inside reminded me of when she broke her shoulder and taught herself to write left handed.  "You really can teach an old dog new tricks," she told me, "but it doesn't mean they can do them well."

Most of the time, these shipments are full of articles and other ephemera. My parents are voracious readers so sending these items is a way that they say, "We are thinking about you." And although I read a lot myself and realize that their motivations are good, I often perceive the ever-growing stack of papers as a succubus of time, attention and space.

Part of this is my fault. I feel compelled to read it all and I can't throw it away until I do. This is a problem when I receive a shipment like the one I received last week with a piece of upholstery fabric I had requested. It contained:

  • Aforementioned card from my grandma
  • Christmas letter and photo from their college friends
  • Financial Times Graduates Face Hard Route to the Top
  • Entire program from the Theaterworks production of Tracy Lett's Superior Donuts
  • Financial Times insert The Connected Business Digest
  • 3 pages of my medical records. One dated June 2000. Two were from 1991.
  • Info regarding an Oregon-based insurance company.
  • An article from Time Magazine about kitty prozac and pheromones.
  • Fortune Magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work For 2008
  • Printed MountainWings email entitled How to be Happy
  • Money Magazine's The 50 Best Jobs in America
  • Are You Ready for 76 Million Echo Boomers? from BottomLine
  • San Jose Mercury News article Engineering, Computer Science Pay More than Liberal Arts
  • An article called Rekindling the Home Fires
  • Kiplinger's Personal Finance Don't Worry Little Lady about sexism and auto repair.
  • Another page from Kiplinger's either citing an article called A Wounded Warrior Returns to Work or What You Need to Know About Warranties. I'm really not sure which, so I read both.
  • Bloomberg Businessweek Inside the Swoosh

It may not seem like too much, but this adds up to well over 100 pages of material. It also creates a brand new pile of papers all on its own. The salt on the wound? I received it on a day where I had literally spent hours eliminating a hauntingly similar pile.

So, in order to curtail the paper overload, I composed a set of criteria which I plan to refine and put into flow-chart form. Where's Visio when you need it the most?

1. Can I read and ingest the entire contents within 2 minutes?
  • Yes. Ok to send.
  • No. See question #2.

2. Is it something I am passionate about?
  • Yes. Ok to send
  • Maybe. Ask if I want to read it via phone or email.
  • No. See question #3

3. Is it something I need to act on?
  • Yes. Send with explanation.
  • No. See question #4

4. Is it something that will make me feel good?
  • Yes. Ok to send.
  • No. See question #5

5. Did it resonate with you in a way that made you think of it a day later?
  • Yes. Send with explanation.
  • No. See question #6

6. Have you recently sent me an article that is very similar?
  • Yes. Do not send.
  • No. Ok to send.
What do you think? Is this a way to let them down easy?

1 comment:

Eric Bierker said...

Very funny. You write well. Keep it up! Liked your TED post on creativity.