Wulf's Webden

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Ingrained Habits

Habits can be good when they reliably guide habitual actions without much conscious effort. An example might be the “mirror signal manoeuvre” mantra of the driving instructor; if everyone had this habit I am sure there would be a reduction in accidents on the roads.

Sometimes though, even good habits can have unfortunate side effects. The one I particularly have in mind relates to how I process emails. It irks me when I get a message that is part of an ongoing conversation and has all the previous messages embedded in the text. If I was a participant, I already have those messages and, if not, I probably shouldn’t be seeing them. As a consequence, I tend to instinctively edit my messages down to only include enough quoted material to give some context alongside whatever I am adding to the discussion. It keeps things lean and saves having to watch the spell checker pick through someone else’s mistakes!

It can come back to bite me though. Every now and then I find that I’ve been so ruthlessly, subconsciously efficient that I’ve deleted the text I was meant to be commenting on. I think that, in the past, I got used to email clients that showed forwarded messages as separate components to click on; the common paradigm now (MS Outlook and Gmail) seems to be text that I can easily edit without even noticing. That is a bit of auto-piloting I need to overcome.

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