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

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Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Week 22 (Start Controling Your e-mail Addiction)

As I am starting the process to wrap up another very interesting week at work with plenty of things happening to get things going with a very much anticipated weekend, here I am again sharing with you folks some further details on the weekly progress report from the series I have been doing over the last few weeks, where this time around plenty of things have actually happened. We are now on to Week 22, five and a half months already, since I decided to start giving up on e-mail, i.e. corporate e-mail for my daily interactions to collaborate and share knowledge.

And as you would be able to see from the graphic from the weekly progress report, that particular week has been rather rough, specially since the number of incoming e-mails has reached up to the second highest number of e-mails received in those five and half months! Yes, that is right, not very pleased at the moment, but here is the report anyway:

I am sure that if you come to check the different e-mail counts from previous weeks, you would notice how the second half of the week was actually rather all right, and along the lines of what I have been experimenting in the last few months, however, both Monday & Tuesday were rather special, to put it mildly. As you can see, the numbers went sky high in there, 13 & 15, respectively, to then, by the end of the week make a total of 47 e-mails! 47!!!

Thus you may be wondering what actually caused that sudden increase, right? Well, two different things. Both of them not very pleased with, to be honest, although one of them seemed to be a one time event, and here is why:

Reason #1: people, who got a bit surprised?, perhaps, of the 15 minutes fame from the NYTimes article I got published a couple of weeks back under "I Freed Myself From E-Mail’s Grip", decided to send a couple of e-mails whereas in the past they would be using, with me already, IM or several other social software tools.

Probably to prove the point that they could break the whole thing whenever they would want to. Perhaps because they don’t think for themselves they can break their e-mail addiction any longer, like I did. Maybe because they felt that e-mail was the easy way out to get the message across and they could move on to something else, since they have delegated their tasks on to others with those e-mails.

Either way, I think this was a one time event because this week’s report, which I will share over the next few hours, didn’t show that increasing trend. Things have gone back to normal. Phew!

So, perhaps they were teasing me, after all! 🙂

– Reason #2: this particular reason I am about to explore though has brought some growing concerns on why I strongly feel that e-mail is broken as a collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. It has got to do with how folks get to abuse, and pretty badly, the usage of "Reply to All" (That lovely e-mail button that, if it were for me, and along with the Attachments one, would be gone in no time!).

Yes, that’s right! The reason why those two days were very active in the e-mail front was because a couple of folks kept replying to each other in e-mail AND including EVERYONE ELSE  in the conversation, when they DIDN’T need to be there in the first place! I am sure this scenario does sound familiar to you all! No doubt!

This is one of the reasons why to me, e-mail is broken in this particular respect, not because of the tool itself, but of how much people have abused it over time. Why would people keep "Replying to All" when we all know most of those folks don’t need to be there in the first place? How many e-mails a day do you usually get where this particular feature has been abused? I bet that plenty of time is wasted having to process such e-mails, more than anything else because you first have to read it, then see how is on the list of the .cc, then evaluate whether you would need to respond or not, and if not process it accordingly! Goodness!

Here is the thing though that changes the whole aspect about "Reply to All".  I just wish people would understand that unless I show interest myself on being in such an e-mail thread, please DO NOT include me beyond the first initial e-mail. In most cases I probably even don’t need to be there in the first place, so why would you want to add clutter to my e-mail count? To get exposure? To get visibility you are getting involved in the conversation? Or to show everyone you are active working on something for the rest of the folks on that e-mail thread? Or to show your boss you have got a record of getting folks involved? Or to continue further with your e-mail addiction, specially when people from the "Reply to All" reply back asking why they have been added into that distribution list?

Think! Challenge the "Reply to All" button! Unless you have got the additional interest from the other parties to be involved, don’t include them. You know why? Because we all trust you that you will do the right thing with that task. No need to include us on it in a frenzy exchange of e-mails that would take us all nowhere! All of you, including me, would be much better off! For sure.

"Oh, hang on" -you may say -"But you are going to miss some important stuff we are discussing over here!". "Oh, really?" -I would go- "Well, if it is that important, not to worry, I will find it out (Or it will find me!) in its due time when I do really need it! Or, even better, if it is really that important and crucial for us all, don’t use e-mail! Use something much more sophisticated, open, public, transparent, to share that piece of knowledge or information so that EVERYONE benefits from it! That, to me, would be really important!"

Thus, as you can see, the high numbers from week 22 were, mostly, due to the fact that people seem to be obsessed, rather massively, if not addicted, with the "Reply to All" button. It seems like they could not live without it. It sounds as it is incredibly tempting to see an e-mail with a bunch of folks already on the addressee list and your fingers start getting that nervour reaction that prompts you to hit that specific button! DON’T! Spare us!

Now you would probably understand why I just wish I would wipe it out completely! It doesn’t have any purpose for the one-on-one conversations that I have been mentioning are the best, and most suitable, for e-mail interactions. I am starting to think, more and more by the day, that if you would want to break your e-mail addiction, because that is what we are suffering from at the moment, or, at least, if you would want to control it a bit, STOP abusing the "Reply to All" button!

We would be eternally grateful …

Have a good one everyone!

(If you are wondering where I got the cartoon from above that clearly represents how broken the "Reply to All" button is, check out "Cartoon – Email Dangers Of Hitting “Reply To All” Without Thinking". Yes, I couldn’t have put it in much better words that those!)

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  1. Hey Luis: Does this mean you’ll be removing your “subscribe to this blog by e-mail” button 😉

    I think your project is very inspiring, though I confess that I get more e-mails (just work e-mails) each day than you get in a week, so I have much further to go. I’ll be doing another article on this subject myself on Monday.

  2. Hi Luis! Enjoying reading of your triumphant battle with email. I’ve been fortunate to finish my ‘day job’ as CEO of a nonprofit in the past couple of weeks. The ‘reply to all’ took up many of my 80 or so emails that I would receive each and every day on average from all the myriad of partnerships and associations I was involved in or connected to. Now in my own business, email is creeping up once again already and am mindful of how I can manage it better for the benefit of not only myself but those too that send me so much!
    Keep up the good work, am really enjoying your posts and especially the sharing of the learning on all of this.

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