E-mail is like writing a letter. There was a time when sitting down to write a letter (with pen) was an almost pleasant task which you expected to take a good hour on a rainy day... including moments of displaced thought spent staring out of the window (at this points anyone under the age of 30 is probably wondering what the hell I'm on about!).
I still can (and do) waste a good hour or two writing an e-mail.
E-mail is not:
- A replacement for conversation. The best tech solutions we have for this are Google Hangouts, Facetime or Skype etc. or even; god forbid, the telephone (psst, don't tell the kids they can talk into those things). Ping-pong emails are just an ineffective and tedious form of conversation - even worse when they're to a cc list who mostly couldn't care less about the topic. It's morse-code compared to the telephone. If you can, get off your back-side, walk across the office and talk to them!
- A replacement for instant-messaging. IM deserves more credit than it typically receives and in many organisations is a fundamental necessity to improve communication. You should be ashamed of yourself if you use e-mail this way! IM is quicker, simpler and crucially doesn't fill your day with a tonne of "in-box" items you'll never get round to. And if you're only experience of IM is Lync.. you need to get out more.
- A replacement for group conversation. Get a room for god-sake! Co-location is the #1 solution for group communication. But if you can't do that (and don't give in, fight for this as it will revolutionise your working life) then many tools are available to ease comms over a distance. Many of these; Slack notably in my experience, can be truly engaging for group conversations.
- And the cherry on the cake... a replacement for documentation. If you think that sending an email with detailed information counts as "documentation" then you deserve to be taken outside, strapped to the stocks, de-trousered, painted in pigs-blood and have your children forced to throw a variety or spoiled food products at your sorry carcass till their tears run dry. Put it in a wiki or a teamroom or in a document on a file-system - I care not which. But stuffed in the crevice of some email chain where it's neither obvious or available to those that need it only serves to deter the distribution of knowledge, increase confusion and encourage chaos and entropy to thrive. If your organisation works this way then your organisation is likely living off institutionalised knowledge which may walk out the door tomorrow.
We all hate e-mail. We all love e-mail... No, scratch that. E-mail is rubbish and should be relegated to the same historic status as letter writing. Occasionally nice to receive but quaint and you'd rather not spend your time writing them... It's time to abandon e-mail!