In today’s world, email has become ubiquitous. When I walk by most people’s offices, invariably they are at their desk looking at their Microsoft Outlook Inbox. I have a few thoughts on email and thought I would share them.
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I went paperless over a year ago. So, I am not a luddite. I definitely embrace technology and all the possibilities it provides. But personally, email is one of my least favorite forms of communication. In fact, in order to increase my effectiveness, I have worked hard at eliminating email from my day.
The main reason is that I find that email can be very efficient, but rarely effective. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you come in early one day to tackle a bunch of items from your “to do” list. You roll through each item and send out an email for each item to get that item completed. Some items might be directing someone to do something, some items might be asking for additional clarification, some items might be answering a question. An hour later, you feel great. You nocked off 25 items! But did you really? What do you think will happen by that afternoon. Invariably, you will receive emails back on about 20 of the items asking for additional information, more clarification or something else. All you really did was start an email string, not complete the process.
I find that a short conversation trumps email every time. It allows the other person to hear your tone, it allows the other person to ask clarifying questions and it allows you to make sure they understood and also get commitments on when the item will be completed. I like using my drive time to make phone calls as it makes me more productive. If I can’t stop by their office then a phone call would be my second choice. If you are working with a team, setting up a short 1/2 hour each week to talk can almost eliminate the email strings that will develop otherwise.
If you find you get a lot of emails every day, take a moment and look at how many you are sending. There is a cause and effect relationship here. If you stop sending emails, you will at least eliminate all the follow-up emails that the original email begins.
I also let my team know my communication preferences. For a quick note, send a text. ”I’ll be late for the meeting” or “Can you stop by my office” are quick notes that work well. For anything of importance, stop by my office or call. If you email me, I’m going to assume there is no urgency to the content. I only check email a couple of times a day and I rarely will answer an email anyway. If it requires a response I will typically call or stop by their office. This has made email a less effective tool for my team so they now limit their emails and call or come see me instead.
If you find yourself drowning in email, maybe try a couple of these suggestions. Limiting your outgoing email will be the fastest way to limit your incoming email. Meeting consistently with your customers, vendors or team will also reduce the number of emails that need a response. Hopefully these ideas help.