It was to be a challenge to the scale of biblical proportions! One man versus a multitude of people masquerading as tiny little envelopes on his screen. All of the envelopes are open, which was an indicator to the man was at least checking them for urgency and shaping the view that they could wait. Gone already of course, are the envelopes that couldn't wait or simply required but a handful words and minimal thinking to conjure up a response. Eradicated are the countless daily spam that arrive offering him all kinds of advances and enhancements to parts of your life I dear not mention.
What lingered in my inbox were the hard emails. Emails I actually had to reflect on, process and even make a decision on. Emails that required more than an effortless one line answer or that simply were not a priority for me. These emails needed thought and in many cases well crafted responses. So yesterday I spent the best part of the whole day clearing emails, and handling the related requests. Some of my time was spent at Machina drinking a mocha and a flat white, the rest of my time was at work nailing detail to reply with.
Now here is the point! Email is an incredible non-urgent method of communicating. It is a fantastic way of providing information and updates in a timely manner. But I must say I have a key philosophical issue with email today and it's use in most companies. It is this:
When we send an email we mentally transfer the problem to someone else until such time as they handle the problem themselves, forward it to someone else, or respond. I do it all the time by the way!
Now my philosophical issue is that when we do this, we generally think our email or problem or question or information is more important than the other things people have on, or dear I say it, we don't even think about what they have on and just send the email.
We expect an answer from emails and most the time get one, when in fact it could be distracting people from doing really important tasks. There is generally no opt out, just an expectation that you will handle it. People live with their inbox open, are continually distracted and productivity plummets as they bombarded by a multitude of people masquerading as tiny little envelopes.
Yesterday I cleared some emails going back 3 months. I considered resolving to focus on clearing all my emails each week, but then I thought I would be allowing the envelopes to determine my priorities rather than me. I am happy to spend a day every few months clearing the backlog and sometimes I admit that I actually just delete the email a month or so after it was sent. If it was really urgent they would have called me or asked me when I had an opportunity to say no.