To Email or not to Email
- Published: Wednesday, 23 March 2016 08:44
E-mail is a great tool and like any other tool, it is more about HOW is it used than what it is. More and more people are sharing how email dominates their day. There is an expectation that since email is instant communication (for the most part) responses must be instant. That constant flow of information can (and usually does) negatively impact on the amount of work we get done as opposed to the amount of emails to which we respond.
Here is a March 22, 2016 article that makes “The Case Against Email.”
Now as often is the case, there tends to be a swing of the pendulum, an either/or situation that paints issues in stark black and white. Often issues like this have shades of gray to be considered as well. It may not be about using email or not, but when and how. In other words, we want to manage our email as opposed to having it manage us.
Here are some simple guidelines that might help:
- Establish a three email rule. If there are three mails in a row about the same topic I talk to the person directly. This usually addresses the question or the issue more clearly than additional emails.
- Limit the time you spend on email. There are some who suggest not looking at your email first thing in the morning because you will get sucked into spending the next several hours writing and responding. Each of us has to find what works best, the main focus on being limiting email time and expanding work/people time.
If you are a morning email person you might consider these strategies:
- Go through your emails quickly (I use either the subject line or the sender as indicators) and identify what emails need to be addressed immediately, which can be addressed later in the day or week, and which can be discarded.
- Keep a daily to-do list and align your email choices with the list. In other words, if the email is about an item that is on your to do list, you want to respond. If it is about another issue that will take you off task, put it in the “get to later pile.” If you feel like you have to respond to the “get to it later” pile, send a short note explaining you received their email and will get back to them later in the week. (This has the added benefit in this current immediate response world to let people know you got their email-you recognize both their importance and the issue’s importance.)
- Remember set a time limit and keep to it.
Not sure if limiting your email will help you get work done? Start a log and monitor your current time usage for a week. If you have a smart phone, you create a note or document and just keep a running log of how you are spending your time. Then following week, apply the strategies above, and continue with the log. Compare the two weeks, if there is no difference, then you have no problem, but if you note an increase in time spend on actual work as opposed to talking about the actual work, you may want consider the above points.
A final thought, emails as useful as they are, can be confusing to the reader. Have you ever received an email and wondered, “Are they mad?” Often the tone of the email is hard to decipher. Email is a tool to help us be efficient. It can’t replace a personal contact. A short call or a walk over to the person’s office or desk can contribute to creating and reinforcing a strong working relationship.