Email is killing me

The BBC reports on the hidden costs of email here. It’s an interesting story and one that is being told over and over again as 21st century people finally smack their heads one too many times on glass door on instant communication.Whether you like email or not… it’s probably not going anywhere. Most people who are knowledge workers do not and will not have much of a choice about using email. For most of us, we have to make our peace with it and learn to use it effectively rather than getting chewed up and spit out by it.In my earlier post, “Wired Sabbath” I pointed out that technology is not really the problem. Email is not really a markedly different form of communication than letter writing.Its central difference is speed and volume. Many workers today are doing the equivalent of driving a car through a city the same way they might ride a horse through the countryside.Both are essentially means of physically getting from point a to point b by being propelled on a type of machine. The difference is, once again, speed and volume. A car can go a lot faster than a horse with less cost. In a city there are also a bunch of cars moving around. A horse is a living creature and smart enough not to ride into another horse or any other obstacle. I think we all know that cars are not.Just like you might want to create, say, traffic rules for a city it is imperative that we create traffic rules for emails. By that I mean a system that we use regularly to control emails.I also mean learning and/or negotiating the culture of email where you work.To help you make a start at this here are some tips:

1. Get emails out of your inbox. An inbox is for unread emails only.

2. Once emails are read, move them into files based on what your next action with that email will be. Mine are: “respond” (if I need to reply and doing so will take more than 10 minutes), “print” (if I need to print when I’m in the office), “read/review” (if I need to digest the content but there’s no next action and doing so will take more than 10 minutes), and “waiting for” (so I can track emails with requests “out there” and follow up to close the loop if I get no response).Getting emails out of your “inbox” will change your life by saving you the mental distraction of skimming and sorting read and unread emails, each time remembering what was in that email and what you were supposed to do with it. 

An empty inbox helps to keep clutter out of your mind and makes you more effective.

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