E-Mail Overload… or Workload Overload?

The following link was shared with me today.    http://emailcharter.org

I spend my life in meetings, giving direction (I’m a director!), responding to e-mails, updating web information, managing software, servers, budgets, personnel issues…  and doing work for others in the form of e-mails!  Most of the work comes through e-mails!  Requests for administrivia in the form of reports.  Requests for responses about progress on work that did not have a deadline. Rude requests. Requests for opinions (should they be long or short?). Requests to share information in the form of e-mails. Requests for documents in the form of attachments to e-mails. Requests for me to read e-mails that do not require a response.  Responses to me that do not require a response.  Requests that I make arrangements for a program because someone doesn’t know the process, doesn’t care, doesn’t have time to do it, and I should handle it all for them (yeah, rude eh?).  And my favorite, requests for me to near instantly solve a problem for someone that, had they done some planning, would not end up as an emergency for me to handle so that they don’t look like they couldn’t plan a simple program, project, whatever…

E-mail madness?  Yes!

So what do I do?   Stop doing work in the form of e-mail?  What about communication?  Should I go to more meetings instead?  Should I wait two weeks to share information about an issue with the group?  What if others perceive the issue as more important than a two week wait? Others are rarely at their desk… they are in meetings!  So using the phone is waste of time, especially if you need to communicate the same information to a group! How else do you communicate with them?  Sending an e-mail gets the message to the other person(s) instantly.  Do I expect an immediate response?  No. Unless I say that in the message…  Should I expect an instant response?  No.  If I have an urgent request, I shouldn’t use e-mail. Am I wasting my time and that of others?  Yes, if I don’t use the tool properly. E-mail is informal.  Should I waste my time getting the message pristine so I save others time from determining what the meaning of “is” is? Be glad I don’t type ur for your and you’re.  And yes, I know the difference!

Here’s the deal.  I’m busy. Way back when we communicated on paper and by phone exclusively we spent about the same time in our offices and we got less volume of work done.  Now we get more work done in less time.  I wonder how that happens!?!  E-mails perhaps?!?!  Now, everything, including e-mails, are perceived to require instant attention.  I even have folks call me, indignant that I was at a meeting getting my work done, when they needed a response to that e-mail they sent me just an hour ago so that they can get their work done. What?!?  I still haven’t heard back from you on my e-mail request from a week ago?!?

Get over e-mail overload, or your workload or my workload overload.  We all have work to do.  Don’t waste my time with requests for me to get work done if you don’t want me to share all the information on a subject that makes me comfortable that I have done my job as a professional so that you can get your work done more quickly.

Oh yeah.  I was wasting my personal time reading work email at 9 PM while trying not take too long to get to colleagues e-mails that were informational (I think, because that wasn’t clear) and be sure they didn’t require a timely response, like the one sent a few weeks ago, after office hours, that required 4 hours of research time from me  and a response was required by 9 AM the next morning, a half hour  after I arrived at work.

Confused?  Me too!

Actually, the best advice I am aware of for dealing with e-mail came from the website 43folders.com/howto and Merlin Mann, who visited CCSU and spoke on the subject.  (I love the “Suck” list.) “Follow” him @hotdogsladies

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