When I was hanging out with Rox (Darling, from beachwalks.tv and barefeetstudios.com) @ BlogHerBiz '07 back in March, something striking [at least to me] occurred. We did the conference thing and hung out for a few hours, and when she checked her in-box, she had *80* new emails.... EIGHTY!!!
I remember being surprised by two things. The first thing was that she had so many new emails in the span of probably four hours. The second was that..... she wasn't surprised by this at all. She looked at her computer screen like "... here we go again..."... like this was something 'regular'.
At the time, I was probably getting 15 emails tops in an entire day. 80 would have meant I didn't check my email for an entire WEEK! :D ... and that's INCLUDING spam and bacn.
I remember considering the amount of TIME it would take her to go through all of those emails, particularly the relevant ones. I also thought about how more emails would be coming in during the time she was spending answering the 80 emails currently awaiting some form of action. She also DIDN'T start dealing with her email at that point, so I considered how much more would be built up until she allocated time and mental energy to her process. Months later, I watched an MSNBC video where Andrew Baron from Rocketboom actually DELETED all of his backed-up email! :O [video link].
The 'problem' isn't actually email... it's TIME as well as energy. There's only so much time in a day. Some of that time has to be allocated to new things, other time to current thing and still other time to clearing your desk or archiving old things. On top of that, there's a familiarity of process that's actually repulsive when it comes to doing several of the same kind of project simultaneously. For instance... Many editors that I know don't WATCH television. :) We MAKE television all day, so when we're done with that, we want to do something different with our free time.
I think it's especially important for freelancers to pay attention to these time and energy costs. It's easy to overextend yourself if you don't account for the 'personal expenses' of coming down from one project and getting in gear to do another one. It's not necessarily easier on staffers either, depending on what you agreed to accomplish before leaving each day. A 9-5 could easily become a 9-7 or 9-9 depending on how many duplicate videos you need to create for packaging purposes or backup or delivery to different locations.
Looking back at my own archives, I realize that I lost control of my 'personal expenses' back in the beginning of July, two months ago. Ever since then, there hasn't been enough TIME in each day to accomplish what I need to. Just the fact that I can take the time to think up, write and then post this blog is a testament to my regaining a handle on something that I wasn't aware I could lose a handle on. :)
Probably back in June, I agreed to do a choreography video for my friend Violeta Galagarza, Founder of KR3Ts Dance Company, based in East Harlem, NYC. At the time, I 'saw' very clearly how I was going to get it done, and how long it was going to take me. Right after that, I accepted new client work, started editing a popular internet show, participated in a live internet show that required preparation, contributed a segment to a third internet show, thought up and created a video blog and accompanying social site, traveled out of state a couple of times and edited a cooking DVD. Priorities stacked up, and I have to apologize to Violeta for taking so long, but I literally have not had a block of time where I could get out of the mindset of mentally 'living in' my client work or other projects to 'live in' her project long enough to get 'er done.
I realize I'm still too close to this phenomenon to succinctly explain it. :)
My advice is... If you're in a profession where you need to FEEL the work in order to be good at it, such as video editing, pay close attention to the 'emotional' toll that it takes on your system. You end up paying that toll in TIME. People will not understand this, so you have to manage it on your own.
Same thing with email or any other time-consuming process. Nobody's PAYING YOU to reply to their emails, but they still expect responses. The time you spend answering emails is the time you're NOT spending clearing your obligations from your virtual desk. It's time you're NOT spending working on your own projects or doing what YOU want to do. It's time you're NOT spending thinking progressively about something you'd like to accomplish in the future. It's time you're NOT spending learning new technology that someone created or exploring a new social site. It's time you're NOT spending watching video blogs to check out new techniques or just enjoy what your friends are doing this week.
I understood the look on Rox's face when she saw how many unread emails she had accumulated in the span of a few hours, but I couldn't empathize with her. I most certainly do, NOW! I'm going to knock this choreography video out and make sure I don't lose track of my 'personal expenses' ever again! :D