The article began with a simple question:

How much time does email waste in your office?

The article in Forbes relates that information technology firm Atos combats email bloat in their company by setting up rules for email. After reading, I began thinking about the following as possible time savers:

Suggestions for controlling email

  • Keep your email apps closed except for certain designated hours during the day. What would it look like to only have your email app open for two hours during work?
  • Condense your emails to lists/bullets for easy readability among your coworkers and regular teams. This reduces read-time and enhances clarity.
  • Don’t send emails immediately. Save as drafts and send at designated times. This will allow you to add to or edit emails. Instead of sending multiple emails to the same person about each thing you think about, you condense it to one per day (if that).
  • Take email notifications off your devices so that you’re not conditioned to look at your email All.The.Time.
  • Retrain yourself to not default to emails or texts each time you think about something. Make a “to-do” list about what you need to communicate and compose your emails during the designated times mentioned above.

Atos found that its managers spent anywhere from 5-20 hours a week just writing and answering emails. If you’re ok with that, great. But why not assess how much time you’re on email?

Wisdom in waiting

Also consider the wisdom of waiting to write good emails. Sometimes we attempt to communicate too much over email, and people cannot hear our tone. Devoid of relational content or at times insensitive to cultural perspectives, we may inadvertently send a missile instead of a missive. It’s worth remembering the email that set Yale University on PC fire in 2016.

For seven years I lived and worked on two college campuses, and a growing number of students report avoiding controversial topics — such as the limits of religious tolerance or transgender rights — for fear of uttering “unacceptable” language or otherwise stepping out of line. As a student observed in the Yale Daily News, the concept of campus civility now requires adherence to specific ideology — not only commitment to respectful dialogue. (Erika Christakis)

Be wary of reacting in writing emails

There are some emails you’ll receive that violate every suggestion I’ve mentioned and even common sense decency. You’ll get a missile in your inbox that is poorly written, obviously composed in haste and perhaps even in “heat.” You’ll be tempted to react and fire off a response. Don’t. Consider Scott McKnight’s four rules before writing an angry email.

Consider apps

There’s a plethora of new apps available – some that even let you “unsend” in a certain amount of time. Take some time to look around at what email apps are available to help you manage your email. Whether it’s a new app, creating folders, automated rules for certain recipients, etc, it’s worth your time to think about how you interact with your email. Thoughtless email engagement guarantees that you’re wasting your time and scattering your focus.

Wrap-Up

Hitting “send” is just too easy. There’s so much to think about before you get lost in email scatterverse. Consider that every next email you read may deal with a completely different topic/strategy/crisis/issue. It’s hard for us to shift in thought and emotion so quickly.

So before you open that email app and “get to work” (and especially if you’re in ministry or thought leadership), think about how much time you’re going to spend first. Read. Reflect. Think strategically about best responses and timing. Set up a few folders on your email app to differentiate the types of emails you’ve got. Do something. And unplug. Don’t be email “on” all the time.

Life’s too short to spend it in send mode.

Further Reading

 

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Jeff Noble

Jeff is the pastor of Northstar Church in Blacksburg, Virginia. He grew up in Arkansas, loves fantasy football and is an Apple fan boy. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram @journeyguy.
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