E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Weeks 15 to 20

If I would have to define the events that took place during the course of yesterday, Monday, when I was back at work at my home office, for quite some time after having finished a great deal of trips all over the place, I would have to define it all with three different keywords: hangover, funny & ironic! Yesterday I was supposed to get things going back again with my regular blogging; alas, it didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen because of the three descriptive keywords I just mentioned above.

Hangover, because I am still tasting the great victory of the Spanish football team at the unforgettable match against Germany in the finals of the European Championship. Yes, that tournament where we all were able to witness Football – Made in Spain. Like I have been mentioning all along. It is going to take us all weeks!, before we would be going back to normal again. So bear with us for a little while longer. You see? We didn’t get to experience this far too often, so now that we are, we want to get the most out of it!

Funny, because over the course of the weekend I finally managed to get through one of the major highlights of this year for myself and the kind of stuff I have been doing for the last five months. No, I am not talking about the recent Forbes.com article on "IBM’s Webbie World", which was pretty massive by itself, and will deserve, at a later time, a blog post on its own! I am talking about the article I got published by the New York Times (NYTimes from here onwards) detailing some more on the topic of my new reality of giving up on e-mail, i.e. corporate e-mail: I Freed Myself From E-Mail’s Grip.

Yes, that is the title on what has been a MASSIVE day for myself having to catch up with a whole bunch of conversations on this very same topic of giving up on corporate e-mail, in order to remain as productive as ever, if not more!, by making use of social software tools. And you may be wondering why yesterday was a funny day? Well, amongst various different ways, because you cannot imagine the huge amount of e-mails I got coming through both of my corporate & personal e-mail accounts on that very same topic of folks forwarding the article from NYTimes, or sending their congrats and kind wishes along, enquiring about how I am actually doing it, etc. etc.

I know! Too funny! How can that be that I am trying to pull the plug off and walk away from corporate e-mail, managed to get an article in the NYTimes on that very same topic and get back more e-mails than I ever wanted to anticipate! Arrrrggggghhhh! Yes, I can only think about just one thing: too funny!

And, finally, ironic, more than anything else because for a good number of the last few hours that particular article I published in the NYT was on the list of the Top 10 Most Popular e-mailed items! Ha! I know! Funny & ironic at the same time, indeed! Well, it doesn’t stop there, because if you care to take a few minutes to check out the reactions it has provoked already, it is going to keep me busy for a while as well trying to reply to some of the most fascinating discussions I have seen on the topic to date! And, no to worry, I am going to do just that! No doubt! It is not going to be the last word I’ll be saying on the topic…

I am not sure whether it will provoke a more profound change on how I have been dealing with things ever since I got started with this particular new reality of mine, but what I have realised all along is the huge amount of work to be done out there still to help enlighten folks as to how much more productive they can really be using social computing tools, than good old e-mail! Right, am I saying that e-mail is dead? No, I am NOT saying that! In fact, if you have been reading on this experiment from the very beginning you would remember how I have never mentioned that e-mail is dead!

I am just saying that it needs to be re-purposed and used for what it was meant to be in the first place: A communication tool for one on one conversations of a sensitive, private or confidential nature. The rest should be going out there, in the open, in the public space(s), transparent and with an opportunity for everyone to contribute! Notice that I am differentiating quite clearly between communication and collaboration, because they are not the same, no matter what people say about it!

Thus from here onwards I am going to use such article in NYTimes to continue further channeling some of the different experiences, thoughts, ideas, insights into various different blog posts, where I will be taking things into the next level, helping folks understand how I have managed to succeed at it, and, most important, how you can also get it going yourself for your own benefit, as well as your team’s & your communities’!

So what a better way of getting this started with a new level of interactions than sharing with you folks the various status reports from the last few weeks, now that my travelling spree is over and I would have plenty of more time to digest the actual outcome and how things have progressed further so far. I know that for a good number of weeks, up to Week 14, I have been providing a weekly report of how things have been moving along. And then things have stopped for a little while. Well, there was a reason why I didn’t come to the progress reports on how I am giving up on corporate e-mail. And that was the sheer madness of all of the trips I have been involved with lately.

But now that all of those are over, with the odd exception here and there, I think I am ready to go and share with you all the various different status reports, one after the other, so that you can see the progress, which I will try to evaluate with some final comments on the actual result and where I will be going from here. Thus without much further ado, here are the various different weekly progress reports on my giving up on e-mail new reality:

Phew! That was quite a lot of data to look into, Mr! Glad it is now over! As you would be able to see from the various different screen shots from the report, things were starting to change in my Inbox handling my incoming e-mails as I was starting to go into a dangerous trend of more and more e-mails week in, week out. Mainly due to the constant travel and the increasing lack of access to the Internet itself. As amazing as that sounds! I have been travelling to various places (Highlights on each of them coming up shortly as well!) where staying connected was a big challenge at best, including airports and big hotels! Not very helpful, to say the least … 🙁

But then again, last week things were back on track, once more, or, even better, when the total number of e-mails hit a new low in the five months I have been giving up on work related e-mail! Only 24!!! How amazing is that during the course of an entire week, with a short trip in between, I manage to just get 24 e-mails! Massive! Very.

And here I am, already going through the 21st week on this new reality of mine where I am no longer (ab)using corporate e-mail & where I am continuing to use it for the main purposes I mentioned earlier on. And as I am moving into the six months barrier, I am thinking that I am now ready to share with you folks which are the main tools, within the social computing space, that I get to use on a very regular basis, so that everyone out there bumping into this blog, and its many posts, would be able to find those tips helpful and resourceful to help them as well avoiding the clutter of collaborating through e-mail and bringing in a new wave of online interactions, much more out in the open, public, transparent and with the opportunity for everyone to contribute accordingly.

Thus stay tuned, because we just got started with this all! To me, it all begun with a single weekend where hangover, funny & ironic took a new meaning: that one of extending further and beyond the experience of what it feels like living without e-mail! … Can you imagine?

I surely did! I surely can! How about you? Want to join me?

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  1. Luis,

    Thanks for the offline discussion — I will try to find some time to ping you today, but yesterday was quarter-close and so actually, asynchronous communication is my best non-time-sensitive tool at the moment.

    The quarrel I had with your article was the second-to-last sentence where you said “E-mail can become extinct, if not repurposed altogether, even at big companies like I.B.M.” In your reply to me, as well as here in your blog entry, you insist that you are not saying that e-mail is dead… but “can become extinct” has the same meaning as “dead”.

    Otherwise, we are generally in agreement, and while I haven’t read every week’s installment of your project, I have actually been tracking to see what comes of it. There are absolutely many ways companies can change their use of e-mail to be more meaningful and less-cluttered, and I appreciate your efforts to champion that mindset.

  2. Hi Luis-

    I was wondering if you could speak to whether there was an increase in other types of traffic into your life? Some would argue that twitter and IM are even more intrusive than email, on some level. Was there a corresponding jump in the amount of non-email online communication? This seems like a vital piece of information when evaluating the success of your venture.

  3. Hi Luis,

    Actually fascinating. I must admit it would be a little difficult to stay off email, but then, i thought the same thing about quitting smoking, too! 🙂

    By the by, i would be interested to know about folks on the receiving end … how are they tracking changes to a blog, for instance. Or are we simply replacing email client with feedreaders?

    Cheers, Atul.

  4. Hi folks! Thanks much for the feedback comments and for dropping by! Greatly appreciated all of the input provided. Ed, you are most welcome with that offline discussion. I enjoyed it as well. Asynchronous communication is a good thing, indeed, and there are plenty of 2.0 tools that still allow you to do that, like we are doing just now 😉

    I think we are just having a conversation over here about language issues, because when I put it together the fact I said “E-mail can become extinct” does not necessarily mean it will be, does it? Or have a miss something in here? What I meant with that sentence is that if e-mail is not capable of evolving with the times and challenges that we face nowadays, then it is going to have a tough time surviving it all.

    I am not saying it’s dead, I am saying that if it doesn’t move on in the innovation path it will not have much time to make it through. And if not, look at how much e-mail younger generations are sending out versus other types of interactions. They are just not using it and those younger generations are the ones coming into the workforce rather strong, already, wanting to be as productive as ever with their collaboration and knowledge sharing tools. And, guess what?, e-mail is not one of them, because it hasn’t evolved for decades! That’s what I was trying to say with that quote.

    I just put together another blog post where I developed further on this topic and the blog post you put together and detailed there why I feel this is also a unique opportunity for applications like Lotus Notes 8 to drive through that innovation, which in a way is already happening. Have a look into it and let me know what you think.

    Katie, thanks for the comments. You bring in a good point, indeed, and it is not the first time that someone asks me about it. The short answer is, YES!! It has increased tremendously the amount of interactions I have been exposed to, but that is EXACTLY what I am after! I would rather prefer to have all of those interactions than e-mail, because that means the conversations are out there, in the open, public spaces, ready for everyone, not just me, to contribute!

    Why am I not counting them and include them as part of the report? Well, because it would fail the purpose of me being productive. There are far too many to keep a count of them. With all of the tools I use and on a daily basis keeping track of it all with my Feed reader, it would become far too onerous for me to count them. Besides, I am not worried about increasing those interactions outside e-mail. I want it that way. It makes me smarter hanging out there with other folks who I want to collaborate and share my knowledge with. So the more, the better.

    Atul, thanks for the kind comments, my friend! Exactly! You just brought in one of the lines I use for my pitch. We are on the stage where we are just addicted to e-mail, and like with every single addiction, it is always difficult to stop or quit altogether. So I feel this very same way about e-mail (First thing we check in the morning, after lunch, before leaving work, right after dinner at home, etc. etc. That, to me, is an addiction and I just want OUT of it!)

    With regards to your final comments, yes, my feed readers are becoming slowly, but steadily, my new inbox, but with a huge difference. The feed readers are just notifications of content available out there in public, open spaces, where I can contribute or not, depending on how much other folks have gotten involved, whereas with e-mail it is *me* the one who needs to do all of the work, specially that one delegated to me, instead of co-llaborating together. That is a huge difference, in my opinion, and why I feel that RSS / Atom feeds are perhaps so undervalued, when they shouldn’t! But I will expand more on this at a later time…

    Thanks again for the comments, folks, and for dropping by!

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