I just heard the most appropriate term I have heard in a while – “Email bankruptcy”. According to the New York Times the definition is as follows:
e-mail bankruptcy n.
What you’re declaring when you choose to delete or ignore a very large number of e-mail messages after falling behind in reading and responding to them. This often includes sending a boilerplate message explaining that old messages will never receive a personal, specific response. Although the Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig is often credited with coining this term, at best he can be said to have popularized it. Its first use was in 2002, two years before Mr. Lessig publicly declared his own e-mail bankruptcy.
This is an impressive definition. I knew a CEO who essentially gave up on email after falling behind by some 7000 unread messages.
The solution is not just to turn off email, turn off all phones, return all mail and go live in a cave. All email has made it easy to do is allow time demands to be presented to a professional in a more efficient form, but running away from time demands does not result in them going away.
It’s a much better idea to develop a set of habits that can deal with that volume of email, and of time demands.