The Tyranny of Email Part II

Thursday, 16 June 2011, 7:46 | Category : General
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Further to Marc’s recent post here on our blog, I thought I’d take a different tack on the issue of email management. I’ve read a few interesting pieces recently on this subject. On the one hand there are the ongoing management & business productivity problems caused by poor email etiquette on the part of staff. On the other there is the fact that how you manage email is very personal and subjective, yet has a big impact not only on individual productivity but on the productivity of others in your team/organisation/beyond. As you can see, the two are inextricably linked.

Since email was adopted as a mass communication tool for business in the mid 90s, business advisors, media (and software providers!) have been proffering their wisdom on how to ensure people use email properly. However the fundamental problem is that everyone uses email in their own unique way, and makes a subjective judgement each time on a) email or phone, b) content, tone & length of email and c) who needs to read the message – the CC and insidious BCC options.

Email is great when you need to communicate quickly to more than one person and have something on record. Email is not great when it generates multiple conversations a day often between multiple recipients who were all previously getting on with their jobs. I’ll hold my hands up here – I am a big culprit. Especially in a business like ours, where we employ several staff working around London and beyond, backed by a large (international) freelance network, email is a vital tool. I love it and hate it at the same time. So what’s the solution?

I just read this interesting piece by Anthony Mayfield – – which references anecdotes about “email bankruptcy” and emerging technologies hailed as replacements for email. Six years on, we’re still in the same place and personally I’m still getting over 100 messages each day (and sending lots, too). This makes me question how much we are really hooked on email. Having canvassed many senior work colleagues, we claim it’s a blight on our lives, but we still can’t quite bring ourselves to adopt the first tip advocated in all email management articles – Turn it Off! If something’s that urgent, the person wanting to get in touch should pick up the ‘phone. Unless, maybe we’ve got to the point where email is the de facto way to communicate and we are now scared to use the telephone, even to pass a message on to one person?

We can check emails a couple of times a day, and the rest of the time we can be getting on with our work rather than communicating about it. Can’t we?

Over the summer I shall be sharing various tips & tools I come across for managing email, trying them out and reporting back on the results. But in the meantime you may find me a little less responsive on email than I’ve been in the past. Which let’s face it means less emails for you to read, digest, reply to…


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