What typically happens in any job where you’re dependent on and document everything with emails (like those in the wireless telecom site development realm) is over time you find you’re getting more and more emails from multiple sources.
It starts off innocently enough.
Someone cc’s you because they think you need to know about a certain issue or result. Then the next 5-10 email response all end up cc’ing everyone on the chain. Basically using email to problem solve.
What this does is three things.
- First, you get barraged by a boatload of emails during the problem solving phase that you probably don’t need to see (you’d be better off if after they resolved the issue they just forwarded to you the resolution rather than seeing the dirty underbelly of the back and forth trying to get to an answer).
- Second, it gives an implication of disorganization and lack of knowledge. We’re always better off framing a question or answer to the appropriate parties after the due diligence has been completed.
- Third, over time you become cc’ed on everything and your email box explodes.
So Ryan’s reminder was a good one.
What was his suggestion?
Be mindful of what is your responsibility to handle and only present fleshed out questions or answers to appropriate parties. Everything else you work out the details first. In many cases this significantly reduces the number of emails everyone has to deal with.
It is hard.
This isn’t an easy thing to do. It is much easier just to put a bunch of people on the email, make your comment or question, and watch the sparks fly. No responsibility for you, not a lot of extra thinking.
But when you serve things up appropriate, you have to prethink what you want, what your ask will be, and present everything effectively after you’ve collected the data and determined the result.
But when you do that you are owning your responsibilities. You aren’t just dumping on everyone else. You are mindful of others’ time and using it wisely. And your team will respect you for that.
I see the same thing online. With email lists you’re on you always have that “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of each email you get.
It is a great reminder that you always are in control of your email flow to some extent.
With email lists I’m on I’ll periodically purge the email lists I’m on that I really find myself filing or deleting on a regular basis but noticing I’m not getting any real value or just don’t have the time to read and it isn’t a big enough priority. That way the emails I do get that I enjoy reading or get real value out of, get my attention and get read, without taking up all my free time to get through.
You don’t have an unsubscribe button with work emails, but…
You do have a way to reduce them.
Go through your inbox and for every email you get, ask yourself these questions.
- Do I need to be aware of these types of emails?
- If I do, do I need all the emails in the chain? Or just the initiation email or the conclusion email, or both? Do I really need all the ones in the middle?
- Do I need to take action on it?
- Is it clear that I need to take action? Or are others in the “To:” box who could take care of it?
- If I’m in the cc: line, do I really need to be cc’ed?
If you find after answering these questions you don’t really need to get some or all of the emails in the future, contact the sender.
Let them know that going forward, unless it meets a certain criteria you define for them (such as requiring your knowledge or involvement), you’re asking them not to include you in future emails of that type.
This is a big deal with cc’s.
I know people who have 300 to 600 emails a day they get. If they read and responded to them all they would likely get almost no other work done in a day. Or they’d find themselves missing important emails and working a few hours longer each day just to get through them.
But by taking this step of contacting senders and helping them re-prioritize what your really need to be sent and making them aware of their email impact, you could easily reduce your emails by a third. In some cases you could cut it in half or by two thirds.
It really is amazing how much email you get you really don’t need or use. It makes you feel connected and informed. But it often distracts from what you really need to get done in a day.
And when you eliminate a lot of the clutter, you feel less stress. You’re more in charge of your time. You enjoy yourself more. You have time to connect in person with your coworkers or friends and family. You feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. And you become a better person.
So take that step. De-clutter your life. And this email freeing exercise can be the start.