“Don’t use email as a medium to shy away from face to-face confrontation”

14 May

inboxication – are you at risk?
By Andrew May (www.andrewmay.com)

Remember the days when we actually posted a letter via ‘snail mail’? Those days are long gone and speed of communication is the new king. Sitting in the court of this new kingdom is email. It has revolutionised communication, making it simpler and faster for businesses to communicate.

email facts:
• The average email user in business spends 2 hours plus a day dealing with email
• Worldwide email traffic will triple over the next few years with 331 billion emails predicted to be sent and received per day by 2009 (Radicatti)
• Average workers receive 48 to 75 emails per day, with many workers now receiving 200 to 300 (Christine Cavanagh, University of Western Ontario)
• 70% of senior managers found dealing with daily torrents of email stressful (Australian Psychological Society study survey)
• Costs $25, 000 annually on paying senior managers to read and write emails (research by Emphasis on UK’s Big Four financial firms)

we need a new set of rules
So clearly we need to find ways of cutting down on email traffic and managing it more efficiently. Read the following 7 Deadly Sins of email to help you control the date deluge and avoid feeling ‘inboxicated’.

sin 1: 24/7 email addiction – always connected and controlled by the medium.
Bing! … the noise alert ‘you have mail’ has to be the greatest killer of productivity and concentration. Get rid of the email alert and focus on one task at a time, especially when it requires thought and innovation. Check your emails at specific times throughout the day to enhance productivity and output. For example, only check emails at the start of your day, just before lunch and at the end of the day. One in five people fall into the category of ‘email dependant’ and compulsively check email and panic when they can’t get access.

sin 2: email tennis – stuck in a serve volley game of constant returning emails
Ever had one of those asynchronous email conversations that goes on like a Lleyton Hewitt 5th set tie breaker? Get out of the habit of long games of email tennis. Follow the 2 email rule – if you’re still not sure what to do after 2 emails revert to a really old fashioned way of communicating and pick up the phone and call the recipient and work out what needs to be done. Better still, if they work in the cubicle next to you, get out of your chair and go and see them face to face.

sin 3: email emu – sticking your head in the sand trying to avoid confrontation
Don’t use email as a medium to shy away from face to face confrontation. Email is best suited to simple communications, such as scheduling meetings and circulating minutes or updates. It isn’t a substitute for face-to-face or phone communications. U R Fired 😦 RadioShack sacked 400 employees in Fort Worth via staff email in 2006. A redundancy is never going to be good news, but receiving notification of it by email just adds insult to injury.

sin 4: writing a thesis – waffling on, and on and on and on and on in emails
Get to the point. Keep it brief. Remember some people already receive hundreds of emails a day. Email tends to be more like conversational speech and falls in a category between a short note and a memo, so it is unnecessary to spend hours composing a message with the formality and rigidity of a PHD thesis (although I can hear my high school English teacher screaming in disgust as I type this!)
• Better still, use bullet points to illustrate main topics

sin 5: bcc (butt covering child) – CC’ing everyone to show how busy you’ve been
Needlessly long distribution lists are a major cause of email log jam. It may seem convenient for circulating a document to glean input from multiple people, but it can spark off an email frenzy that you will find hard to cope with. There’s nothing like ‘email noise’ to raise your stress levels. Ten messages from ten recipients in ten minutes, with ten conflicting views. Aaaaaaahhhhh!

sin 6: quick draw McGraw – not thinking before you send
Because email is quick and viewed as a less formal medium than letters or memos, people can be careless in their eagerness to reply. We’ve all seen this deadly sin in action. When a friend or colleague writes something about someone or something and accidentally copies in the entire distribution list. At the very least this will provide embarrassment; and at the worst jeopardise your career. As a simple rule, if you are going to send an emotional or ‘angry email’, write it, store it in your draft folder, read it again a few hours later and then re evaluate how you feel. Email may be convenient, but it’s also easy to misinterpret, lacking the visual clues or changes in tonality of face-to-face communication.

sin 7: junk emails – spam, chain emails, and general junk
That email you received from the Nigerian farmer about needing help to bring money out of the country probably doesn’t have much truth to it; and what about the endless parade of emails that ‘promise to bring you luck and abundance after you forward to 50 family members and friends’; and we’ve all had a friend who suddenly got connected and started sending endless jokes, stories and pictures of all sorts. Get rid of the spam and junk. Use filters. And regularly use Mail Box Clean up, with this tool, you can find types of items to delete or move, empty the deleted items folder or you can have Outlook transfer items to an archive file. Be ruthless and only keep emails you really need.

final comment
There’s no doubt that email can be a scourge on productivity and an added source of stress. Used inappropriately, it can even cause embarrassment and elicit unintended responses. But follow a few simple rules and apply a bit of self-discipline, and email can live up to its promise of being a fast and efficient communications tool. That’s it for now – gotta go – more emails to send!!


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