Email Overload

Email 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 Email

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.

Email Overload

email overloadI 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.

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