Thoughts on Email

First, let me clarify my relationship with email. When it comes the jobs I’ve had, I went from working in an office, to working from home, doing freelance and now back in an office. It might not sound like much of a switch, but each one required different levels of communication to stay up to speed. For instance, my first office job was in a building that had about 150 employees. Not huge, but a lot of people were not close by. When it came to the developers and designers I was currently sharing a project with, we used instant message, but when it came to people in a different division (or people I’d rather not talk to that often) email came in mighty handy.

When I left my first office job, and started working from home I realized that I would need to step up my email game. Again, anyone I was working with very closely, we kept in contact through IM or a chatroom like Campfire. The difference this time was not the size of the company (only about 10 people) but rather the fact that sometimes something was just too long to say in a quick message. At my office job, I would walk over to that person, pull up a chair and have a conversation. From home, this wasn’t possible. My options were either Skype or email. Since Skype takes a minimum of 10 minutes and 5 crashes before successfully starting, I usually chose email.

Fast forward to today. I’m back working full time in an office. This time however, the team is small at only 7 people, with 5 of them being in earshot of me all day long. More important than this though, we’ve started using a program called Slack (which I highly recommend) and it has all but rid my need of email for the work I’m currently doing. We also use other tools like Trello and Google Docs. All of this combined there isn’t much reason for me to open email at work.

Based on my current situation, I am going to try something. This has been suggested many times before by other people in a variety of ways, but starting today, I’m only going to check my email 3 times a day. I’m going to attempt to check it morning, noon and afternoon/evening. This way, I can still get back to people in a timely fashion but the constant barrage or email flooding in throughout the day won’t distract me from what I’m currently trying to accomplish. The only time I will break this is if someone needs something and I have to send it via email or if someone specifically tells me to check my email for an attachment. Otherwise, they will have to wait to get a response from me.

You see, my biggest issue is not email from friends, family or co-workers, but rather the fringe email that makes its way in. I’ve signed up for quite a few newsletters over the years. Many I’m still happy to be a part of and a few that I wish would just let me unsubscribe. The problem isn’t that I don’t want to read them, but rather that I do. I want to see the updates on the new app coming out, and I want to read what some of my friends wrote about, but I don’t NEED to read about it right now. I’ve begun treating email like a glorified checklist of items I need to work through, with the goal of having all accomplished (archived or deleted). This means if one comes in while I’m working on something, the tendency is to jump over and take care of it. By removing the constant thread of email coming in throughout the day and limiting it to a few times a day, I can easily stay focused and possibly even reduce some stress.

You can always hit me up on Twitter, as I’ll usually respond much quicker there.