I’m adopting the James Dyson way of life by only sending six emails a day

Before my new aspiration to the Dyson half-a-dozen emails, I aimed to restrict my inbox to one page of the things (about 15) via a hardline policy of deletion, decanting and immediate answers

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The Independent Online

I have been thinking about the inventor Sir James Dyson ever since the revelation that he only gets, and sends, six emails a day. Six! How on earth does he do it? Well, apparently Sir James (current worth around £8bn) bans staff from emailing internal memos and gives new recruits notebooks and pencils for meetings. He also encourages talking in the office. Yes, chat. “We’re creating things, working out how to sell them,” he has said. “You can’t do that on your own. You have to talk.”

How very different from the world as envisaged by, well, almost everyone about a decade ago when it was deemed that the office was over, the phoneline was over,  and that one’s working day involved commuting from your bedroom to the kitchen table where earnings would be achieved all day long via wi-fi and electronic messaging. As long as the wi-fi didn’t break down. Indeed, wi-fi breakdown is now regarded as seriously as people in the 18th century might have viewed an outbreak of smallpox. Some American Airbnb visitors who stayed at Millard Towers over Easter got very anxious when our wi-fi went on the blink. Never mind that they were in London to see the sights. “We are living in email isolation,” they said, in a furious email (sent, presumably from Costa down the road). I would surmise that Sir James has never considered this condition for one second.  

Frankly, the Dyson way seems deeply attractive, and I intend to emulate it. Emails, which once seemed so cool and easy, have now become a sticky, unexciting bog of Eventbrite distraction, MailChimp polls and Doodle scheduling, the metaphorical result of which is akin to the 17.6-tonne mountain of plastic detritus sitting on tiny Henderson Island in the South Pacific. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is said to get 800 emails a day, and is obliged to rise at 3.45am in order to keep a handle on them. Forget his brave new world: this is a truly Sisyphean horror story.   

Before my new aspiration to the Dyson half-a-dozen emails, I aimed to restrict my inbox to one page of the things (about 15)  via a hardline policy of deletion, decanting and immediate answers. I probably forestall hundreds more by pressing ‘unsubscribe’ on almost every press release that I get. To irresponsible PR teams who fail to provide an ‘unsubscribe’ button, I send a furious demand for immediate release. I never tick boxes for newsletters, reports or offers. Yet take your eye off the ball, even for a day, and the unrelenting e-cascade is merciless. My former colleague at the BBC, Torin Douglas, never swept his inbox. I used to gasp at his hoard of over 50,000 missives, with which he appeared to live quite contentedly.

Yet apart from their colossal time-wasting potential, Dyson has put his finger on something else. Emails stop you being creative. As any freelance hack will attest, it’s much easier to get a commission when you talk about it. I know stoics who manage online degrees and home school their children solely via wi-fi. But conversation, with its vast degree of subtle nuance, humour and emotion goes down several notches when it is translated via ampersand, as anyone who has ever tried to compose an email love letter will attest. Bouncing ideas around an inbox is far weaker than doing it around a table in Starbucks. Talking could be the new social media. Who knew?

As ever one must cast an eye not only at billionaires, but teenagers, for the way ahead. My children all have email accounts, but never use them. They don’t use Twitter either (essentially a groovier style of emailing). They use apps where messages automatically erase. I know they are all still glued to their devices but that is thanks to a different demon. Sir James, my new role model, what is your opinion on Snapchat stories and Clash Royale?