Yours is bigger than mine, ha ha

I don't want people to be proud of their over-full inboxes.  I want them to be embarrassed.  And I want everyone to work together to lift the problem.

The amount of email one gets on a daily basis or the size of the inbox is a constant source of bragging rights around the business world, and the blogosphere (or social-o-sphere) is no exception.  In the last week, I collected articles and references that make this blindingly clear:

And this was just a few.  It seems like there is a renewed glut of these "I've got a big inbox" articles.  And I can't tell if people are sorry about it or bragging.  Arrington is essentially admitting defeat, whereas Owyang is thinking about ways to deal with it more effectively.

We need to change behaviors.  It should NOT be okay to have overflowing inboxes.  The problem needs to be solved on both the input and output levels, and I think most personal effectiveness methods focus too heavily on the output.  But at the end of the day, if you are getting hundreds of messages a day, you are in trouble.  We need to change the input equation.

One method is to declare war on that incoming mail, and the best discussion of this so far has been Luis Suarez ongoing discussion of Giving up on work e-mail.  He's down to less than 50 a week, and he regards this as too much.  He's shifted most of his discussions and requests-for-contact to other social media.

But what about the other problem of email input, where people are just too profligate with their Send button?  This is the email-for-everything problem that Luis is trying to solve.  I suggest that we need to develop mechanisms TOGETHER to provide useful information in the right contexts.  This is everything from creating useful subject lines to providing guidelines on good writing.

Email is an effective tool, but not when absolutely everything travels through email as it does today.  We need to pace ourselves, and we need to work with our colleagues to set the standards.

** Yes, I know that there are many conveniences associated with the email tools we have today.  But it's time to agree that the technology has been overwhelmed with everything we try to do.  Let's move on.

4 Comment(s)

I'm struggling with trying to stay in touch with the community --this wasn't an intention to brag. If I were to brag, I'd talk about my blogging numbers etc. So please don't take this as an egotistical post.

Here's how I'm fixing it, I've removed many notifications that come in from Twitter, limited my responses, and am only checking email a few times a day.

If you've got any tips let me know.

Hi Jack, Wikipatterns.com includes an Adoption pattern named "Email to wiki" that fosters interest to the wiki. Another article by McAfee comes to mind as well, referencing an example I've included elsewhere below:

The balance between autonomous use and externally imposed parameters is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of wiki implementation. Every organization is unique as are the interactions specific to the needs of its personnel and processes. Therefore, a decision needs to be made in order to optimize constructive use of the wiki without impeding on individual autonomy. One managing director tried igniting interest in the intranet wiki by sending an email with descriptions about what a wiki is and then encouraged everyone to use it. However, no one did…until he posted the agenda and action items of the next meeting on the wiki, and encouraged people to use it as a forum to discuss and respond. This came as a result of continuous accumulation of email back-and-forth discussions and responses, most of which were not directly relevant to the topic at hand. The wiki helped this managing director reduce the 300 email messages he received each day. (Source: Emerging Technologies-Strategic Considerations, Cheng 2006)

Jack Vinson Author Profile Page said:

Jeremiah- sorry to impugn your intent! I tried to make it clear that you were looking for help.

Tips for limiting the input are along the lines of what Luis has been doing: get off those mailing lists, turn off redundant notifications, etc. Once they get in your box, you need to apply the cold eye of reality: delete it / file it if you can't reasonably reply. Or put it into a timebox and work on the reply then. Get it out of the inbox.

[not sending this to you as per my usual practice]

Here's a wonderful post from Green Chameleon by Patrick Lambe. The original slideshare is from Engineers without fear.

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