Email overload isn't quite so simple
Despite Luis Suarez' experiment, living a life without email isn't easy for everyone. Why? People seem to understand the general idea that checking email every five seconds doesn't actually add value. And some even seem to get the idea that if you send less, you get less. But have you tried to make that happen with people beyond your own personal experiments? How well does that usually work? How long?
Nathan Zeldes has been looking at this problem for a while and has recently written The Dark Side of Information Overload (blog post + longer pdf). The short answer to why information overload continues to be a problem: people have a lot of cultural baggage that is tied up in appearing busy (namely with too much email).
The resolution to this is that instead of trying to treat the symptoms of too much email, the underlying thinking needs to be rewired too. And Nathan's basic underlying cause: mistrust. Start creating an environment of trust, rather than fear. Stop making it okay for people to send CYA emails. Make them accountable for results, not intentions or attempts. (Do people know what they are expected to do, and by when?)
Update: After posting this, I came across Kevin Jones' article that says some very similar things, at a slightly larger level. It's all about the culture. Are You the Master or Servant of Your Culture?
[Photo: "Trust Worthy" by elycefeliz]
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