If there isn’t a Murphy-style law somewhere that states labour saving devices increase labour I want to claim it as Pearl’s Law. Take email. Great idea in principle. Bye-bye leaky pens, trips to the post box and tongues tasting of envelope gum [blagh]. But look where it’s got us. I don’t know a client that isn’t overwhelmed by the emails pouring into their in-boxes and lives. I don’t know if you’ve seen the new Spike Jonze movie Her yet but the love story is real. We have truly been seduced by our own cyber creations. And it’s an affair that’s going to end badly.
I have a mail that I meant to answer when it arrived in June 2013. And it’s still sitting there – looking at me with a baleful eye and waving its little red flag pathetically. I meant to get round to it but it’s now buried under miles of sedimentary emails that have been deposited on top. Years hence, digital archaeologists will unearth it like a fossilised dinosaur and wonder why it was never answered. Yea, that which we did create to serve us has verily enslaved us.
Instead of moaning, a leadership team I was working with yesterday had some good ideas to spring us from ePrison. I thought I’d share them.
Turn emails into tweets by confining the entire message into the subject box – that way you can see everything you need without opening the darned thing. This would require that you know what you want to communicate. And there lies the problem!
Disable the Forward function. How often do you forward mails because it looks useful but in fact it’s an excuse for not thinking about the message
Avoid Reply All like the plague. I know you’re important but do thirteen other people really have to open a mail from you which says ‘Gr8’? If your mental burps are really that fascinating, use Twitter
Don’t answer any emails before 1400. And disable the notifications function so you are not tempted to get distracted
Reply to emails with a phone call. Remember speech? It’s the thing that happens between your chin and nose. Remember speaking to people? It’s what we did before we stopped really meeting and started nearly meeting instead. Remember people? They are those life-forms over the other side of the room hunched over their laptops sending you an email.
And FYI – stop FYI-ing. It’s a perfect example of fake helpfulness which enables you to look like you are keeping others ‘in the loop’ while you, in fact, step out of it. It’s digital pass-the-parcel. It’s got to stop.
Now I’m off to answer that 7 month old mail. Gr8.
Please let us know how your own affair with email is going – and any Gr8 ideas you have devised to release yourself from e-slavery.