E-Mail Overload

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb

E-Mail overload has become an overused term. But I find myself with an inbox hovering near 6,000 messages (5932 at the moment) and so I have to make some serious changes.

The Tyranny of E-Mail

I have already followed Ole Eichorn’s advice in The Tyranny of Email which offered these six rules

  1. Turn your email client off.  Pick the moment at which you’ll be interrupted.
  2. Never criticize anyone in email, and avoid technical debates.  Use face-to-face meetings or ‘phone calls instead.
  3. Be judicious in who you send email to, and who you copy on emails.
  4. Observing some formality is important.
  5. Don’t hesitate to review and revise important emails.
  6. Remember that email is a public and permanent record.

(see also his Tyranny Revisited) but I need to do much more.

E-Mail Overload

I currently use Eudora and make extensive use of wikis and other private workspace tools–I had an epiphany this morning that I shared with the IMC Area Breakfast for Consultant’s group in Palo Alto: if you are using E-mail as the primary vehicle for project communication and management you are relying on their ability to organize and manage their inbox to keep their end on track; we know from the extent everyone talks about e-mail overload this is not a good idea.

I make use of IM with those clients that are comfortable with it. We have switched over to WebEx Office internally, which has given us a shared calendar, action item, and contact list. I sent 3800 messages last year and 4500 year to date in 2006. I received 27,000 messages last year and 35,000 E-mails year to date in 2006. It’s a 20% increase in activity (one quarter of which is accounted for by a doubling of inbound junk mail from 1700 to 3500). I don’t think I need a “bigger hammer” as much as a total re-think of my communication pattern; at least once a week now an e-mail gets overlooked in my inbox that should not be.

I don’t have any clear plan beyond doing a ground-up re-think in December and January and continue to make changes. I welcome any suggestions, pointers to tools, good books, or other observations. I have the strong sense that none of the “modern” E-mail clients is using the right paradigm: the concept of an inbox and other folders for filing has been there from the first mail readers I was using almost 30 years ago.

I am reminded of a rule from driving in a flooded hilly area. It’s hard to tell how deep the water is from memory, but if the water starts to come over the top of the hood it’s time to back it up and try a different route before the car stalls.

Related Blog Posts

Trackback from your site.

Comments (6)

  • SKMurphy » GABA Panel on Communication Wrap-Up

    |

    […] Pierre Khawand, CEO of People-OnTheGo made the point that blogs are useful in larger firms and enterprises for internal communication [update Oct-10 he blogs in more detail on his “Less is More Blog.“] But the problem that many folks seemed to be wrestling with was e-mail overload. One of the best articles on this remains Ole Eichorn’s “The Tyranny of E-mail” from 2003, which covers everything the panel could suggest (”don’t answer your e-mail as frequently, send shorter e-mails, pick up the phone if you find tempers rising or discussions moving in circles”) and more. I shared some of my challenges in E-mail overload back in November (and no, it hasn’t gotten any better and I haven’t gotten any smarter, except that it’s now clear I have to move off of Eudora since support has been completely discontinued…suggestions welcome, clues gratefully accepted). […]

    Reply

  • SKMurphy » How I Avoid Sending E-Mail I Regret

    |

    […] in November of 2006 I wrote about my “E-Mail Overload” a challenge that I have made very little progress on as I re-read it today (I have reviewed Merlin Mann’s “Inbox Zero” approach several times but find myself unable to stick with it). […]

    Reply

  • SKMurphy » GABA Panel on Communication Wrap Up

    |

    […] Pierre Khawand, CEO of People-OnTheGo made the point that blogs are useful in larger firms and enterprises for internal communication [update Oct-10 he blogs in more detail on his “Less is More Blog.“] But the problem that many folks seemed to be wrestling with was e-mail overload. One of the best articles on this remains Ole Eichorn’s “The Tyranny of E-mail” from 2003, which covers everything the panel could suggest (”don’t answer your e-mail as frequently, send shorter e-mails, pick up the phone if you find tempers rising or discussions moving in circles”) and more. I shared some of my challenges in E-mail overload back in November (and no, it hasn’t gotten any better and I haven’t gotten any smarter, except that it’s now clear I have to move off of Eudora since support has been completely discontinued…suggestions welcome, clues gratefully accepted). […]

    Reply

Leave a comment

Quick Links

Bootstrappers Breakfast Link Startup Stages Clients In the News Upcoming Events Office Hours Button Newsletter SignUp