By a show of hands, how many of you look forward to opening your email inbox every morning when you arrive at the office? I see. You sadistic types who raised your hand may put it down now while the other 99% of us discuss the topic at hand – your email inbox.
This is a question with which I wrestled for more years than I care to count. Email is inefficient. It is dry and disengaged communication that lends itself to a lot of unnecessary back and forth and can create so much clutter that an entire day can pass and you are left wondering what you actually accomplished. Through trial and error as well as thankfully something better, the email inefficiency days are behind me.
So, should you kill your email inbox? Read this article and its tips and tell me what you think.
Check it once, maybe twice per day and that is it.
I used to be perpetually connected to my email. It was awesome I thought because anyone could reach me at any time. And I could reach anyone by firing off an email. Eventually I learned this is not so awesome unless your entire job description is writing and responding to emails.
The first change I made was to designate two times throughout the day I would check email. Those times were in the morning and in the evening. If anyone needed me in an emergency, they knew email was not the way to reach me. It was a semi-scary adjustment.
Yes, I do have a full inbox by the day’s end but as I went through it, I realized much of that inbox can be managed if I dedicate a set time to it rather than responding on-the-fly. To give you an analogy, which is more efficient? Having seventeen consecutive conversations with seventeen people consecutively and then being done with those conversations or having those seventeen people constantly interrupt me throughout my day for bits and pieces of the conversation?
Set clear boundaries with those who email you.
It was not easy to bring myself to do it because I knew how much people relied on me but I finally stepped up and told everyone if they need me immediately, email is not the way to reach me. Eventually, everyone learned I would not respond to them by email until the day was over. What this has done is cause people to better manage their questions for me. It has also caused them to collect the questions to have one conversation with me or, if I am not available and is not urgent, to communicate with me electronically.
Here is a novel concept – talk!
Email is not a substitute for conversation. Email should be used when there is so much detail in the question that it is better laid out in writing and a dialogue is really not necessary to come up with the answer. For example, if I have 10 questions on a client’s case that the email recipient can answer but that recipient will likely have to go review of file or look at some paperwork to answer it, email is efficient.
Evolve from email to something better.
Email sucks. Slack does not suck. What is Slack?
It is an application and a one-stop shop for communication within an office or work environment. With Slack, you can create channels for different projects. These channels can be public for everyone in the firm to see or private. There is also direct messages and groups that can be created. It is real time communication exchange, similar to a text message. It has a user-friendly interface, highly functional features and simply cool layout. It makes communication efficient and enjoyable. Possibly my favorite feature of Slack is its searchability. Ever had that moment where you are digging through emails to find that one email that one person sent about that one subject? With Slack, it takes about 5-10 seconds and the search result is right in front of your face.
Nothing I write here is going to really explain Slack to you. You simply have to go to their website and check it out. And they are not by any means the only game in town.
In case you are wondering, I am not being paid anything to promote Slack nor do they even know I am writing this article. This is purely for the love of the application that I bring it up.
So email is not dead? Or is it?
With very limited exceptions, the great majority of other communication is through Slack. So email, for us, is not quite dead yet. But it is getting there as we evolve.
Whatever you decide, your goal should be efficiency. If you have found the secret to effective and efficient email communication, then please share that with me…just don’t email me to tell me about it.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.