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 36 (Nine Months without E-Mail!)

As I am about to head over to the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin, where a number of workshops have already started the show, I thought it would be a good moment to reflect on another milestone I have crossed in the last few days on my quest to giving up e-mail at work. Yes, indeed, it is that time again where I will be showing over the next few minutes the weekly progress report from last week: week 36! That is right! Last week marked the ninth consecutive month that I am no longer using corporate e-mail to communicate, collaborate and share knowledge with other knowledge workers! Wooohooo! 9 months! Who would have thought, eh?

I am not sure whether I would be having a chance to (live) blog the Web 2.0 Expo itself (It would pretty much depend on who would win the everlasting battle: online vs. face to face interactions, the latter being the purest form of social networking, if you would ask me!), although when I get back there will be highlights blog posts coming up sharing my overall experiences. Thus I thought I would go ahead and set the stage for my upcoming talk on Thursday with this entry.

It’s been nine months since I decided to give up on e-mail and it looks like things are back to normal. Here is the report:

As you would be able to see the incoming count of e-mails went down again to roughly above 30: 31, which ha been consistently what I have been working through over the last few months, with the odd exception of that new challenge I set up for myself of getting that number even lower: below 20! But we shall see how that goes.

I must say that last week’s count of e-mails was relatively higher than I expected and more than anything else, because of something that has happened that I am sure has hit plenty of other businesses. As we are coming closer to the end of the year, things are getting rather tight with budgets, specially for business trips, so a good number of the e-mails I have been getting last week were dealing with cancellation of events I was planning on going to, or other businesses trips, where we needed to do a couple of tweaks here and there, including the Web 2.0 Expo here in Berlin.

So I am glad that’s now over. I still have got one or two more business trips for the rest of the year and would definitely be keeping everyone updated about them, but from there onwards I am done with travelling for this year. And that can only mean that I expect the e-mail count to even go lower than ever from here onwards! Already seeing that this week while I am away!

To now wrap up this particular blog post I thought I would share with you a couple of very interesting, rather helpful and insightful links I have bumped into in the last few days on the topic of e-mail. One of them doesn’t have much to do with last week, since it got published yesterday, but I just couldn’t resist and you will see what I mean, when I get to mention it.

There have been plenty more relevant and interesting links to other fruitful discussions on the topic and will be tapping into them as time goes by, but for now I just wanted to touch base on these two, and in this particular blog post, since they complement each other rather well.

The first one comes from my good friend Ross Mayfield, Chairman, President & Co-founder of Socialtext, who not long ago published this stunning article in Forbes, as well as his own blog, under the title "E-Mail Hell". That’s just one of those essential articles that everybody who may be struggling with e-mail at work should have a look and read on. In it you would be able to find some really sound and helpful advice on how you can diversify your incoming e-mail count to the point that you can specialise it just as much as I did by having only 1:1 conversations of a sensitive / confidential nature. Everything else should go outside the Inbox and into much more open, public and transparent collaborative spaces! Take a look at what Ross thinks is the mail culprit of why we get so much e-mail: broken processes! (Spot on!)

From there onwards, he gets to detail a number of tactics on how you, too, can reduce your e-mail count to the point where it may be almost non existent! (Remember how I have been able to reduce mine by nearly 85% in the last few months!). I am not going to mention all of the various different tactics, since I think you should all head over to his article, or blog post, and read them all of them in there, but I guess I could as well tease you a bit with their headings to give you an idea of what you would be able to find there. So here it goes:

– "Establish Internal E-Mail Practices
– Move Group E-mail to Collaborative Workspaces
– Establish Public Protocols When Possible
– Reply to E-mail by Blog
– Leverage Special-Purpose Social Software
(Where yours truly gets a lovely mentioned on how I have fragmented & specialised those e-mail interactions)

Thus, as you would be able to see plenty of food for thought and lots and lots of helpful tips, very easy to follow, on how you can get things going and start challenging your Inbox, which, at the end of the day is what we should all be doing, if we feel we are not getting the most out of it. Yes, I know you are going to say that people will keep sending you e-mails. Yes, I go through that every day, but here is the thing, show them there is a different way, show them there is a better way for them (And for you!) to be more productive. Challenge them to re-think next time they send an e-mail and very soon you will be moving into the next wave of 2.0 interactions! Yes, indeed, the waters are lovely! Come and join us! 😀

Oh, and for the second link, and for all of those folks who would want to go the route of the traditional way: i.e. still living inside your Inbox, check out this particular link, just published yesterday at the IBM.com under the title "Welcome to the age of Information Overload", which, after I read through it and listened to the nearly seven minutes podcast, I just couldn’t help thinking … what a lost opportunity! [Anyone heard of Social Computing and Social Software, please? Am I alone on this? Oh well… *sigh* -I would probably have another opportunity to comment on it at a later time and in much more detail…]

Why? Because whether we like it or not, what we are going through nowadays is not "Information Overload" folks, but "Filter Failure", like Clay Shirky would say… And here is the thing, it is up to You! to set up the right filters and there is nothing better and much more effective than relying on your (social) networks to work through that social filtering to get you where you need to be. Tools won’t just cut it anymore! They never did, they never will! It’s up to you! You are the one who has got to challenge your Inbox. No-one else.

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  1. Hi Luis, I think that a lot of people experience it as information overload. While introducing social media, that’s a powerful entry point to get people interested. RSS feeds are much more pull than the email push!

  2. Hi Joitske! Thanks for the feedback and for dropping by! Yes, I agree with you that they are probably experiencing it as “Information overload”, more than anything else because they haven’t been taught better (In the past) and it is also just the perfect “excuse” to separate the problem from the individual, when the problem *is* eventually the individual him/herself!

    Introducing key 2.0 aspects like the one you mentioned on RSS and syndication is probably the right way to personalise and humanise that already existing disconnect with technology and fix it in the right way. Amazingly enough, one of the most powerful characteristics of Web 2.0, i.e. syndication, is one of the least used at the moment. Probably an indication of the kind of work that we still need to do to bring forward that awareness!

    Thanks again for the feedback! Re-energising!

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