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:
- Email Consumes Us - Jeremiah Owyang
- Michael Arrington's Inbox is Fat! (Tyner Blain) and can you just... ignore it? (Pragmatic Marketing) on the Arrington situation
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.