Talk to any group of business people and you’re likely to hear people crushed by the burden of email. The stats are just incredible – I spoke to someone who owns a small company who gets a staggering 1,000 emails a day! You can optimize your time spent on email, but that only goes so far. I think one of the key things to remember is that email isn’t really a business activity, it’s a way of communicating. You could handle some of those emails by other means like phone, snail mail, Skype or in person conversations. I’m not saying you should, just pointing out that the defining characteristic of the activity is not that it’s email but what you are accomplishing. When I go to a concert, the defining characteristic of that activity is that it’s a concert not how I got there.
When I work with someone who feels burdened by email, the first step is always to optimize how the email is handled. Once we’ve done that, what’s left is communication about some other critical business issue such as customer service, employee development, sales, personal development or business building. Once we establish that the true nature of the activity, it’s much easier to prioritize it and feel good about it.
I would almost make the argument that email hasn’t added any new activities to the work of having a business. People have communicated with customers, co-workers and suppliers since there was a such thing as business. What has changed is the number of communications we are part of. Email is “cheap” in terms of cost, time and effort so we do more of it than we would if we were communicating the same thing by other means.
Today, when you are “doing” your email I invite you to look at what you are really doing via those emails and put a name to it. Then, consider where in your priorities it should be. Leave a comment and tell me about your experience with doing this today.