Most days, the routine is the same: I get to work between 7:00 and 7:30; I brew a cup of tea; I turn on the computer; and I read my e-mail.

Is e-mail boon, or bane?  On the boon side, there is speed.  You can e-mail seven continents simultaneously, and likely receive a reply within hours from each.  On the bane side, there is speed.  Hasty messages, composed during emotional circumstances, can be sent to all seven continents before rational thought has had time to weigh in.  E-mail – eons faster than a letter and more permanent than a phone call – is of the here and now.  Read it and delete it.  We intend to respond to those queries, we intend to attend those meetings, and we intend to complete those tasks.

In short, e-mail is lightweight communication.  Easy to disregard.

And, therein lies another of life’s great ironies: we disregard e-mail requests of us, but demand attention to our e-mail requests of others.  What can be done?

Well, fellow tea drinkers, start smiling.  This may be one of the more pleasant changes of 2009. Make yourself a pot of tea, grab your organizer/calendar, and read your e-mail.  For each request, reply as fit.  For the commitments you agree to, make note in your calendar of the due date.  And, never, never, never put off for tomorrow what can be solved today by a simple task, such as a phone call.  You’d be amazed by the number of people who put off the simplest tasks with the excuse, “I got lots of time!”  But a hundred simple tasks, put off until later, become one large monkey named Procrastination.

So, attend to that simple task now, while the tea steeps, ‘eh?

I propose that tea drinkers view their e-mail as “tea-mail”: pay attention to it like you do steeping time, value it like you do pure water, and respond to it as you do to temperature.  Allow respect of the tea ritual to influence all your communications.