Re-Thinking Email Can Dramatically Improve Your Life.

Re-Thinking Email Can Dramatically Improve Your Life.

Break The Email Chains: A New Approach To Email Management.

Years ago I heard a close friend say, “I answer emails for a living. I sit at my desk all day long waiting for email to come in so I can respond as quickly as possible.” This statement has stuck with me over the years and has been the primary motivator for several aspects of the approach I take towards email communications.

Email is a stressor. (that’s bad)

Without getting into the Pavlovian definitions of pain, exhaustion, delay, and confusion, I think it’s fair to say email can bring both pleasure and pain, depending on the message.

Too many emails can become overwhelming, negative messages delivered electronically can be a source of pain, anticipation while waiting for adelayed responses (or the compulsions to respond immediately) can deprive us of a necessary digital recovery respite (and thinking time). With the ultimate negative stressor being the lack of nuance in email communication that often times causes confusion.

Despite all the negative pitfalls, email continues to be one of the best ways to communicate important information in our professional lives. But should it be? And does it create more problems than it solves?

Breaking The Bad Habits

Below are a series of tips and observations that can help you de-stress your electronic communications methods and help you avoid the pitfalls of email dependence.

1. Avoid The Inbox Zero Trap

Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty. For members of this cult, it becomes an an encompassing mission in life. It’s like a drug for followers of this philosophy, second only to those on the Keto diet. Inbox Zero is a one sided battle against the constant barrage of messages coming in all directions. Although the method does include some simple rules, it ultimately forces users of this method to constantly view emails in their inbox as something needing immediate attention.

Below is a Google Tech Talk from Merlin Mann about the concept.

2. Do Not Email During Meetings

Meetings are designed to gather minds together to address an issue together as a group.  We encourage a screens down rule for meetings, which forces everyone in the room to be present and focused on the task. If someone has their laptop open or their phone in their hand, they’re focusing on someone else’s issue and not the one needing to be addressed in the room.  Plus, it’s just rude.

3. Do Not Email Someone Within Walking Distance

If you can stand up and walk to the person you’re about to email, re-think your choices. Go talk with them, have a substantive discussion, and resolve the issue in real-time. Walking is good for you. Plus, seeing someone’s reaching face-to-face is generally a better indicator of if they understood the topic needing discussion.

4. Avoid Real-Time Email Triage

If it was really that urgent the person would have called you or found you.  Responding to email in real-time show a lack of thoughtfulness to the response. Too many times we see people replying immediately to an email, or even worse, having the expectation that they have to reply immediately. Finish what you were doing and then come back to the email and respond thoughtfully (even a response is even needed).

5. Don’t Be An Enabler

Have you ever sent an email to someone and immediately walked over to see if they got your email?  Don’t. Don’t do this.  A better option would be to go talk to the person and let them know you’re going to send them some additional information about a topic of importance.  If you follow up and email by an in-person reminder you’re essentially saying, “I don’t trust that you’ll give my email the attention it needs and I need to hound you to make sure you take it seriously.”

6. Phone Email Replies

We suggest adopting a simple rule for replying to emails from your phone: never reply to business critical messages on your phone.  There are too many chances for errors.  Because typing on a phone keyboard is harder, many people avoid necessary nuances that help build credibility in your response.


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