Email

The Perennial Pruning of Emails

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I’ll start this post off with a (non) scientific fact:- We almost all dread the incessant stream of Emails coming through. 24 hours a day, non-stop.

I have always been a big fan of keeping on top of Emails. I use my Email inbox as my ‘to do’ list. If it is in my inbox, it needs dealing with in some way. As soon as it is dealt with, it gets filed away which means it is no longer something for me to worry about.

I was away from work recently for four working days (most of which were spent on an MBA residential school). I prepared my inbox as best I could by filing away anything not needed and had it down to about 85. This was a pretty good place to start from as I generally aim to keep my Email inbox at under 100.

I call this the ‘perennial pruning of my Email inbox’ and realise that this has become my new norm of working.

As the Emails kept coming while I was off, I was able to keep on top of them for the first day. By the second day I was losing control due to the volume of Emails coming in. By the third day I had given up trying to control them.

In case you are thinking there are other things I could try, let me run through just a few things I have tried:

  • I have set up loads of rules to automatically file away the not-so-important Emails so that they don’t clog up my inbox;
  • I have turned off my automatic Email notifications;
  • I even try keeping my inbox closed at different points of the working day, in a vain attempt to be more productive;
  • I only check Emails at certain points of the day.

So how come I still feel that Emails are ruling me, rather than the other way around?

I have come to realise that I have it all wrong. The process of keeping my Emails under 100 was completely beside the point. I need to tackle the source i.e. the senders of the Emails. (NB: After reviewing my inbox I realise that many of Emails were originally sent by me! Oh no!! I can hardly blame everyone else for this problem……)

So, starting from now I will be carefully considering each and every Email that I send. I will still send some Emails, but I want to make sure they have a clear purpose, that I am not asking for an unnecessary response and that I always consider whether a good old fashioned face-to-face (or telephone) conversation would work just as well.

Will I be more productive? Will I send less Emails? Will I receive less Emails? (so many questions…..)

Follow my posts for progress updates!!

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Email

The War Against Email

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I don’t know about you, but I really do hate Email.

Somehow, despite it being a tool designed to help, it has become a tool of oppression. It’s a continuous cycle of new Emails coming in, some needing a reply, some not. It often doesn’t matter if you are sending any out or not – there will always be a continuous trickle of new Emails coming in.

I have experimented in this area.

What would happen if I didn’t send an Email at all in a working day? When I tried this, I still received Emails. Granted, I have come to realise that a good portion of my Email inbox was originally generated by me – if I send an Email out with a question, it’s highly likely I will get an Email reply, but I still received a veritable ton of Emails, regardless of my actions.

I also tried checking my Emails at certain points of the day and in the Email reply automatically sent out, I explained the times I would be checking. But it didn’t work. I had a few dismissive ‘that would be nice to be able to do that’ comments from some people and ultimately, the deluge of Emails didn’t slow down at all.

I would also throw into the mix that an organisations culture or ‘Email dependency’ is a key factor. Some orgs/staff predominantly use Email as the preferred method of communication, which will in turn lead to an increase in Emails. Some time ago I conducted a wholly unscientific test of my Emails over a week long period and found over 2/3rds received and sent out were internal traffic. I may wish to change my ways, but I would argue the organisation as a whole need to sign up to this approach as well.

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I have taken some steps to try and reduce the Email stress though. Namely:

  1. Not checking my Emails constantly;
  2. Only sending out an Email if I have to (rather than say talking to someone over the phone or face-to-face);
  3. Turning off the automatic Email notifications;
  4. Having an Email purge at least once a week where I delete any unnecessary Emails or file away any I need to keep;
  5. Trying to keep my Email inbox as ‘actionable’ Emails – things I need to do something with;
  6. Deleting or filing away any ‘old’ Emails – if I haven’t had to do anything with them after several months, it’s unlikely I will need to anytime soon either.

Some of these are just common sense, but you would be surprised how few people follow them.

It’s far from a cast iron answer to dealing with Emails, but I do find the above actions help.

My main aim though is to keep my Email inbox down to around 100 Emails. This is very tough to achieve. I had a few weeks off recently and found that this has crept up to over 250, but I am working on reducing this down. For me, keeping my Email inbox in check helps me to stay focused and in control of my work.

So, what about you? Have you any tips and tricks for reducing Emails at work?