Working in IT, rarely does one email me to say “good job” or to just shoot the breeze. It is *almost* always to report a problem. I have tried traditional IT issue ticketing systems in the past, but users end up emailing anyway. Not resolving the issue just because they didn’t follow protocol isn’t really an option if I want to have a sustaining career with my employer.
For years I have used a method of a single tag/folder (back when we used Microsoft Exchange) for anything that needed follow-up. The issue with that method is everything that needed attention received the same label. If I had a long list of the same label, it was hard to categorize. When we switched to Google for email, I altered the system a little since they eventually allowed adjusting what you view first (priority inbox). I would star any critical/urgent items so they appeared first, followed by anything with the needs attention tag and ultimately followed by everything else.
For 2014 I decided to change up my method for weeding through outstanding issues. Since my inbox is basically a ticketing system, here is how things look:
I have four labels for tickets (Ticket [Urgent], [High], [Normal], and [Low]). All are color coded for how my brain expects to see the criticality. I’ve setup my priority inbox so that urgent labels appear first and foremost, followed by high labels and then everything else. Starring an email now does nothing with regards to my priority inbox which is probably a benefit as I can now use the oddball stars that Google provides (e.g. a question star).
Since I now have a Pebble watch and use the Gmail app on my iPhone, I also have a few filters setup so that emails from certain domains or individuals (or ones containing certain key words) get high importance thus get displayed on my Pebble watch.
I don’t care much for the only read email two or three times a day method. If I did that I would be royally screwed. I find that taking care of an email immediately allows me to work more efficiently and also makes the user happier as their issue is more likely to be resolved immediately.
My brain works like a big queue and I’m constantly re-prioritizing things in my head. What works when I’m in the office doesn’t work for when I’m at home though. I’m constantly on call since I’m in charge of all IT infrastructure and the primary point of contact for all IT related issues. When something goes wrong and I’m not in my office, it is my responsibility to take care of it if it is a high or urgent matter. That method is never a positive for my personal life and I have an *EXTREMELY* hard time switching methods on nights and weekends when things are less likely to go wrong at work.
I have yet to find a work/life balance that allows me to be productive at work but shut off at home. Since I am so connected for the majority of my week, asking to just shut things off simply isn’t in the cards. Oddly enough, I feel that having a Pebble watch has helped with that as I’m less likely to bring out my phone just to check in on something which typically leads to me checking in on other things while I’m at it. Having the info I need at a quick glance/notification on my wrist is the best method I’ve found yet of dealing with a work/life balance.