My Email Manifesto
I have a fundamentally different philosophy to email management than most people I know. Like anytime I differ from the mainstream, I'm often asked 'why' by many people. This manifesto is my answer.
My Email Backstory
Several years ago when I first heard about Inbox Zero or similar strategies, I thought they were revolutionary (and they were, sort of). I (and everyone else I knew) was struggling and complaining about managing email. We were spending all day and night glued to our Blackberries. We were ignoring each other during meetings to quickly "check a few emails", hoping to get the size of our Unreads down to manageable level. In short, we were hating it.
Then comes Inbox Zero like a savior of productivity.
That strategy seemed to be working for some people, and it gained popularity on the web. I tried it, and I failed. Then I consulted the great Google for other strategies. I tried them, and I failed again. Was it me? Was I so much less skilled at email than the email gurus?
No, I simply get too much email to be able to effectively process all each day without going over the top and hiring an email assistant.
Like a general losing battle after battle, I realized I needed to shift my tactics if I wanted to win this war of email management. So several years ago I adopted a new strategy: do your best and forget about the rest.
I know it sounds simplistic and glib, but I just let it go and choose to focus my time on more meaningful things.
Yes, I still process email daily (but it's timeboxed). Yes, I still answer all of my manager's emails (and sometimes not much more than those) because I have systems in place to notify me. And yes, I'm still evolving my system to adapt to the changing email battlefield.
Mitch's Email Manifesto, v1.0
- Sending and receiving email is not my actual job, and the value I create day-to-day is not related to the amount of email I process.
- Email is a tool that I use to help me get my job done. The moment email stops helping me get my job done is the moment I stop using it.
- There are many other communication tools available besides email. Please choose the correct one for the situation.
- I do not check email, I process it. I cannot understand the value of people checking their inbox for something interesting like they are checking to see if there is anything exciting on television. I read the email and I act on the email. Email is is not a form of entertainment.
- I process email infrequently throughout the day. I guarantee to process email at least once per day.
- When I process email, I act on the highest priority items first. After that, I respond to what I can.
- If I don't act upon your email, it is not a reflection of my feelings toward you as a person, I simply didn't get to it in the time alotted.
- If you are waiting on me to respond to an email that you sent, and I haven't sent you a response, please do me and yourself a favor and call or send me an SMS or slack message. Chances are, I didn't process it and your email is now lost in the depths of my inbox archive, never to be seen again.
- If you expect me to read your email in it's entirety, please keep it as short as possible.
For general email commonsense and etiquette, please do humanity a favor and follow the suggestions in the email charter.
Let's all re-focus ourselves on creating value in our lives and our jobs, and focus less on living in our inboxes and trying to read and answer everything in there. Life is too short for that.
Take care, and I'll talk to you next time.