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

From the blog

A World Without Email – Year 2, Weeks 23 to 27 (Recovering from a Moment of Weakness)

Gran Canaria - Playa Las Canteras - Las Palmas de Gran CanariaGoodness! I cannot believe it’s been another five weeks without any updates on this blog on my weekly progress reports (Now probably monthly!) on living a "World Without Email". Time flies, they say, when you are having fun, eh? Well, here I am again, then; sharing with you folks a couple of thoughts on what has happened over the last few weeks and with a clear resolution I need to go back to blogging, at least, bi-weekly on how things are progressing further and I will explain why shortly…

For now, let’s get started with the progress report from last week, week #27, i.e. the latest one (Since you can find weeks #23, #24, #25 and #26 in my Flickr account already), so you can have a look into what happened in those weeks:

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 27

Whoahhh! As you would be able to see, it’s been quite a roller-coaster ride so far! Started with week #23 hitting over the mark of 30 emails received then going down to 22, then 19 (Way on target this one!); then a whopping 47 and, finally, 15 emails received last week. Yes, I know! Quite a ride! Going from the highest number of emails received in a single week for this second year of giving up on corporate email to the lowest number so far in 27 weeks and counting!

Thus what happened? Why was such a massive roller-coaster ride effect taking place, specially last week and the week before? Well, if I would have to summarise it in a couple of words it would be "A moment of weakness from yours truly!". More than a moment of weakness an entire week of weakness!! Jeez! … Here is why…

Week 26 I lowered my arms (Probably way too much!) and started giving in by engaging with my colleagues using email when replying to their threads. Yes, I know! I shouldn’t have done that! I should have known better! But then again I thought my efforts of trying to escape corporate email  during the last 18 months would have payed off to some extent by now, and eventually I found out they didn’t. At least not as much as I would have hoped for!

People started to send me emails much more frequently than before, as opposed to reach out to me through the standard social software channels we established together a while ago. And I guess I understand it. Sending an email is still far easier than any other form of online interaction. Unfortunately, we are not there yet fully embracing social software to collaborate and share our knowledge with our peers.

However, just like 18 months ago, I’m not ready any longer to turn my Inbox into "a todo list that anyone in the world can write to" (I just *love* that quote from a fellow IBM colleague in Australia: Rene Cunningham), so I decided to fight back! And get tougher on engaging back with colleagues using email. I just didn’t! And the result of that was receiving the lowest number of emails in a single week this year! Down from 47 to just 15!

That, to me, is a good enough reason to understand that it’s still going to take a while for folks to perhaps change their work habits (And to start embracing some of these social software tools); and for me, of course, to keep putting up with that healthy fight and keep taking back control of my own productivity. Because, like I have been saying all along, if I don’t take care of it myself and re-gain that productivity at work back again, no-one else is going to do it! Thus I might as well keep going at it. After all, can you imagine yourself receiving 15 emails in a single week?

Well, I just did that last week! Yay! And after this short moment of weakness I went through a couple of weeks back, I can now say I have fully recovered from it and feel like I am back! Back into my usual self: demonstrating it’s possible to work in a corporate environment, as effectively, if not more, as ever, making use of social software tools as opposed to traditional "collaborative" tools like email, amongst others.

And one of the biggest culprits of that statement I have just mentioned above has been my number one social software tool behind the firewall that has helped me tremendously in achieving that: IBM’s Lotus Connections, which, by the way, just announced today the official Connections v2.5 planned availability for August 28th 2009. A new massive release I will be sharing plenty of details about in upcoming blog posts as I will try to detail how it is helping me escape the email beast, or, at least, keeping it under control with 20, or less, emails a week… Making up for a total reduction of my incoming emails in the last few months by over 90% … Not bad, eh? Indeed, not bad at all!

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  1. Luis, you are a great testament of the successes that can be achieved by using social software in the enterprise. Keep up the great work and hope to hear more on how you use Lotus Connections internally to get out of Mail Jail.. (or in your case, stay out of mail jail) 😀

    P.S. The release date is Aug 28th, not 25th. 9 more days baby!

    1. Hi Luis B! Thanks a bunch for dropping by and for the kind comments. It’s greatly appreciated! Yeah, exciting times ahead, indeed, not so much from what I am myself doing in this space utilising social software tools for business, but more because of seeing other fellow knowledge workers giving it a try and seeing by themselves the many many benefits. I think that’s what’s amazing and a real treat to witness. I am just the trigger, you know, once I got it off for everyone else it’s time for them to enjoy what I have been enjoying for the last 18 months and going!

      Oh, on the date for LCv.2.5 … whooops! You are right! I have changed it accordingly! Many thanks once again, Luis! Appreciated!

  2. There is a hint at the larger problem in your quote from Rene Cunningham. If I think (or people think) that my Inbox is “a todo list that anyone in the world can write to,” then of course my Inbox is going to become problematic.

    But since email is still one of the easiest means of interacting within a business (even one as technically advanced as IBM), then we need to stop letting people believe that Inbox = todo list. Or that it is anything other than an inbox of unprocessed stuff. Treat it that way: process the stuff on a regular basis and then put it where it belongs: throw most of it away, file the rest, and put the few things that are really to-be-done in the appropriate place. To do work does not belong sitting in your inbox.

    1. Hi Jack! Many many thanks for those great insights and for some amazing quotes in there! You are just so right! Yet, seeing reality is a different thing. We all know how most people use their Inboxes as their workplace: how they justify they have been doing work; how they use it as their file sharing, and storago room!, for all of those attachments that come through; how they feel they can justify themselves on what they by the amount of hours they have invested and so forth.

      We all know most folks use their email as everything but for what was originally put in place: communicate effectively.

      I do agree with you we need to break the mold and show everyone that the Inbox needs to be diversified and every interaction should be going to the tool that is perhaps much more appropriate. The thing is that this is change that we need to provoke ourselves, not something else or someone else. We are the first ones who should realise we need to stop treating our inboxes like our to-do lists or, like I have been saying all along, the biggest delegation machine the corporate world has ever known and which we are still suffering from!

      Thanks again for the wonderful feedback comments, Jack! Greatly appreciated!

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