Mail Next and Many of you are drunk right now … kind a!

Yup, that’s true, if you are one of those incredibly hard-working men/women, who know they don’t need a lot of sleep and can work for 20 hours a day for weeks. If you find yourself here, you might want to realise you have a mental performance of a heavily drunk. And as a bonus you are killing yourself.

Every other year in May the time comes, were I have to renew my flight instructor privileges. Probably for the last 10 years they beat into us, that fatigue is one of the bigger problems in aviation and the one the easiest to solve. It rectifies itself literally while we sleep. Would be nice for all my problems.
Now the most important misconception:

  • I am young, strong, I run, I bike, I work out, therefore I need less sleep.

Na, sorry. Older people need less sleep. The average person at around 25 needs 8 straight hours of sleep and that does not change a lot until 60. No argument will change that fact. Not even coffee. And you can’t do a training to need less sleep, all you get is even more sleep deprivation.

When somebody has to work for a while more, that’s ok, as long as enough rest awaits in the end. If not, the continuous sleep deprivation leads to burn out, depression, cardiac problems, there are even signs that it might be a factor in getting cancer. Need more reason for enough sleep?
Let’s say you stay awake for 24 hours. Would you consider yourself at peak performance? Not really. I personally start feeling quite dizzy after 20 hours. Test show that continuous sleep deprivation of only two hours per night over 14 days, reduces your mental performance to the level above. That is about the one of a drunk with an alcohol level over 0.1%. Nobody wants a driver or a pilot in that mental state, but developers, admins and managers all over the world think that this is their normal level of performance. A bit more coffee and I am ok. Wrong. In that state my work is lousy. More mistakes and way slower. The problem is, my subjective feeling tells me different. In don’t feel very sleepy, actually quite ok, but my mental performance is still lousy.
Unfortunately we have a culture of who stays the longest in the office, wins. Everybody has to show, they can work hard. Real men culture. Working under pressure. Yeah.


The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) just released new regulations about Pilot Duty and Rest Requirements for Airline Pilots (not for the freight dogs, which I think is stupid). After a 14 hour shift with not more than 9 hours of flight time (8 at night), every pilot must at least get 13 hours of rest and 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Every pilot has to sign a document to affirm that they are fit for duty. There are now limits for daily, monthly and yearly flight time. Why? Because we don’t want almost brain-dead people on the wheel. But pilots are real men/women, aren’t they? Especially helicopter pilots. We are by definition cool, no? But if I would fly for 20 hours straight, I would probably crash. Now I am not cool anymore, rather the late blithering idiot.
Do we really need sleep deprivation to be considered hard? The results should count, not the number of meetings I can press in a day.
Unfortunately many people see this like sport. They say, that working hard is like running a marathon. That picture is wrong, because after a marathon, your body needs rest. Everybody knows that. Nobody runs 10 marathons in a row but this is perfectly acceptable in business. Working should more be considered like a round the world tour on foot/bike/boat. Constantly working toward a goal without damaging the body, because it is a loooooong way and you can not do this with the speed of a marathon. But it brings the best performance over a long period. But no, (almost) everybody thinks long hours are the cool/hard/peak-performance factor. In reality they are the stupid mistakes, bad mood, irritating behavior and friday afternoon crash factors. More coffee please, thank you.
It’s a question about what one wants. It’s either a game of who can keep the seat warm the longest or who performs the best. If I want the best performing employees, I should throw them out after 10 hours in the office and go home, too.
Now what about mail next guy Scott Souder? Every time I hear him, he is complaining about the email flood and his solution is mail next. Good show though, but not a solution for his sleep deprivation. The 10 PM mail from Kramer will still come and Scott will only find it faster with mail next.
How about a feature in mail next where mails from certain people only show up between 8 AM and 8 PM? Cool no? As long as the boss can override that setting. If I have one of my great ideas, I want that all my subalterns know that immediately and start working on it.


Ein Gedanke zu „Mail Next and Many of you are drunk right now … kind a!“

  1. Agree, and I’m guilty of not getting enough sleep.

    The ‚long working hours syndrome = promotion‘ is one of reasons I’m so happy being independent. It’s so obvious that one does not perform well when tired.

    The ‚e-mail flooding‘ could be reduced within organizations by looking at the root causes:

    – e-mails that are too long and badly written, imho everything should already be in the subject line so that I can delete it if I see it’s not relevant
    -excessive cc: ing. This is particularly the case in organisations where the messenger of bad news is shot, and people are afraid to take initiative. If a boss receives gazillions of e-mails, then he’s not delegating properly. I once had a particularly horrible boss who would shout at people as soon as something wasn’t done how he liked it. My personal initiative went to zero immediately, and I bombarded him with ‚is it OK to do this?‘ emails.

    That being said, I’d be interested if IBM manages to get some sort of ‚Watson‘ logic in, i.e. analysing how different users behave and pre-guess the importance of an e-mail. If I immediately answer e-mail from Mr. Smith, and the e-mails are long, then one could assume that Mr. Smith is a client or a boss, and therefore ‚page rank‘ the e-mail.

    I could imagine also an ‚IBM switch‘. The sending e-mails domain name is looked up in parallel to official company registries, a correlation is made to see if the company is at least a small company, i.e. larger than 5000 employees, and disregard everything coming from smaller organisations. I could also imagine some automation here, so that if an user makes a request, a barrage of forms is sent to the questioner until said questioner figures out it’s a waste of time. Another automation: Any e-mail received with ‚bug in….‘ gets automatically answered with a ‚works as designed answer‘.

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