Email Smackdown

Little known fact: our human evolution has stayed roughly the same for the last 150,000 years. Your typical desktop computer changes every few months. Compared to our human reaction time, that old PC in your home office reacts 750,000,000 times faster than you. Yet we still try to increase the speed with which we respond.

It used to be we just wanted to keep up with the Joneses. Now we’re trying to keep up with our gadgets!

To master my email flow, for instance, I’ve taken the challenge. In fact, I have had a modicum of success. This week I’ve spanked my inbox into one monitor length. And it’s going to stay that way if it kills me. And it might.

Despite a grueling travel schedule that took me from Bethesda, Maryland to Charlottesville, Virginia, I have been able to manage my email influx. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I met with a lot of people in person with whom I normally correspond via email on a daily basis. Or perhaps it is because I have not been accessing my email as readily as I usually do.

Email is like a virus. It just keeps spreading. The more you write them, the more you receive them, or so it seems. While I am psyched to hear from that reporter or this one, I am not so enthralled with the spam, baby item giveaways that can only be sent within the lower forty-eight (I live in Germany) or other PR outreach that means I have to stop what I’m doing to pay attention to something else that most often serves only as a distraction.

Our hyperconnection is a blessing and a curse. It’s all about the filters you’ve put in place.

1. Designate times for information gathering. You don’t need to check your email every five minutes.

2. Use your tools. Autoreply is an often underutilized function that helps manage people’s expectations while you liberate your sfocus for what’s truly important.

3. Stop apologizing. If we think responding within 24 hours is unreasonable and we tag each email with an “I’m sorry for the delay!”, we’re teaching people how to treat us. Read: we allow them free license to expect anything sooner.

The truth is email is an information delivery system, like anything else. Just because it is instantaneous doesn’t mean we have to be.

1 Comment

  1. Craig

    March 23, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Love it! So much of this is right on.

    Specifically the part about the more email you send, the more you get. 🙂

    People think they “must” respond to every email and that only generates more!

    – Craig

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