Email is an addiction. Not necessarily yours, but society’s.
The user (society or you) needs to have a certain amount of it just to maintain a normal life. Taking email away from the user would cause a big reaction. Perhaps it could be perceived as harmful to withdraw from its use (to you, your organisation or society’s wellbeing). After all, how could society, or business, or you, function effectively without using it? Work just wouldn’t get done, right?
And like all addictions, some people and businesses over-use emails. It becomes a serious habit. The daily activity of an organisation (or you) becomes based around the need to get work done by processing more and more emails. And the processes an organisation uses get built around the email functionality so that authorisation, approval, consent checking, collaboration, audit trails, commendation, networking, project management and so on, all get hooked into the email loop.
Nothing, but nothing happens without email. And while no organisation would openly admit to running their business via email, secretly, behind closed doors, this is what’s happening all over the world.
Now, I’m not saying email is as bad for your health as some very addictive substances and I’m not using the analogy in order to belittle the plight of those who are addicted to them. I use it to demonstrate a point. There are parallels in email use to addictive behaviours and the results are not good, for you or your business. And like most (if not all) addictions, beating it starts with accepting that there is a problem.
So let’s try out a few things that could potentially be accepted!..
- Accept that email has all kinds of inherent problems that you know are driving you just a little off the rails.. that there’s too much of it. That your organisation actually employs people to manage it on your, or others’ behalf. That you don’t always get a response. That you spend an inordinate amount of time processing it.
- Accept that it interrupts your day and demands your attention when you’d rather be doing Something Else. When it would be better and more productive for you to be doing Something Else. And that sometimes you feel like you never get to the Something Else because you’re too busy managing your Inbox.
- Accept that in some way, email is a crutch for you. As your Inbox fills up it somehow influences you and tells you what to do and when to do it… and this sometimes feels nice. There’s some enjoyment in the methodical process of keeping your inbox organised; reading, filing, deleting, forwarding, replying, flagging, task creation… and again, and again and again. The structure of the process is like a comfy chair. It keeps you nice and secure. You know exactly what you’re doing with email – its management requires adherance to a strict set of rules, cultural practices and norms which everybody appears to play by. Work happens.
- Accept also, that there are other ways to get work done, which might actually be better for you and your organisation, if only you could tip the balance…
There. That wasn’t so hard. So, if you feel comfortable enough, why not try on these acceptances for size!…
- Accept that when you get back from holiday, you secretly enjoy bragging about how many emails you received while you were away. In fact, a day catching up on emails is far easier than talking to anyone or doing any real work. You kinda like the fact you don’t have to ‘think’ too hard on your first day back.
- Accept that email is a perfect way to keep secrets from others and you like to use this to keep certain people in their place by BCC-ing some and not others and CC-ing others and not some, and putting a few special people in the ‘To’ field and hundreds (if not thousands) of your colleagues in a field somewhere far, far away, because they’re not included at all; because they weren’t important enough to receive the information in this beautifully crafted email you’re sending.
- Accept that email is a perfect way for you to play out your insecurities; because it would not be right if there was no audit trail of the conversation you just had. Because you don’t trust that people will do what you asked and you don’t trust yourself to remember what was said. And, like I nearly dared to say, you are an insecure human being.
- Accept that you delegate tasks by email and that this probably doesn’t work that well. No one ever trained you to delegate by email – but you do it all the time, because if you do it buys you more time; because hot damn you can do without actually progressing that piece of work ‘today‘ (and you know the recipient is on leave and this issue will park just fine until they get back).
- Accept that you really really enjoy putting a long technical explanatory email together that you’re going to have to send to a lot of people and that you often think this is the best way to communicate your idea or plan to more than five people rather than phone them individually or set up a meeting, cause they’re expensive time wasting methods… right?
- Accept that you don’t actually want to speak to the other people because sometimes you’re a bit of an introvert and email feels easier to get your thoughts down than shooting from the hip in a phone or face to face conversation.
Phew. I feel quite exhausted.
Of course, I’m not really talking about you. These are all things which I accepted for myself. Perhaps some will ring true for you, perhaps not (I’d be interested to know!). Either way, chances are if you got this far in this post, then something has sparked your interest.
Something has got you to the end of this without giving up and that’s because you know there’s something rotten in the state of our communication.
And the only person who can do anything about it – is YOU!
This post was reproduced as an excerpt from an original and much longer post called 10 Top Tips To Slay The Email Beast