Killing Email: How and Why I Ditched My Inbox by Zen Habits

Gran Canaria - Playa Las Canteras - Las Palmas de Gran CanariaAs you may well remember, on the on-going series of blog posts dealing with the weekly progress reports of living "A World Without Email" I usually get to share a link or two of some interesting related articles I happen to bump into rather often and which I think would help complement nicely each of those different reports.

Thus earlier on today, I had one of those articles I wanted to reference on the last entry I put together on this subject, but then I thought it was just too good not to dedicate it its own space as a separate article over here. When I first bumped into I knew I would eventually be linking to it, and up until now I didn’t have the chance. But today is a good time.

If you are into some amazingly crafted blogging with some of the most insightful articles you can think of out there on the Internet Blogosphere, combined with a natural talent to write stuff that matters and makes a difference with such a wonderful byline as "Simple Productivity", then you know I am talking about the stunning Zen Habits blog by Leo Babauta. Indeed, one of those blogs you need to subscribe to to get your daily dose of Zen.

Well, a couple of weeks back, Leo put together what I can describe as one of those essential readings for everyone out there who keeps struggling with taming the email beast. Yes, that’s right, under the title "Killing Email: How and Why I Ditched My Inbox" he gets to describe a common problem most of us can surely relate to (Well, in my case, lucky enough, after 18 months, not anymore! :-) ): how to keep up with email while keeping our sanity. Sometimes it’s more difficult than what people think, and other times, it just needs to happen…

And that’s exactly what Leo seems to have done: move away from email and start using other forms of interactions, mostly making use of social software tools. And by the looks of it I think things are going all right for him. That well crafted piece covers eventually the various steps he is attempting to go by in order to, slowly, but steadily, move away from email as his primary means of communicating, collaborating and sharing knowledge.

In that amazing article he gets to share some of the various tips he is now following to finally ditch email for good. And I thought about quoting them over here, so you could have a look into how he is doing it. But then I thought it would probably be much better if I just quickly quote the steps and then share a one liner, or two, on what I think about them myself, after having given up on corporate email over 18 months ago! And see where it would take us …

So without much further ado, here you have got the six steps that Leo shared over in that article shared a couple of weeks back:

  1. I’ve set up an autoresponder: I haven’t. I didn’t feel I would need to and so far I haven’t had a need for it either, indeed. Usually, I set up an Out Of Office autoresponder message to let folks where I am when I am away, but in that same OoO message I stress out very clearly how can people reach out to me way faster than email. Yes, using social software. Perhaps main reason why I haven’t set it up as well is because I still process my calendaring and scheduling events through email and I still get to engage 1:1 with folks on sensitive / confidential conversations. Only set of interactions that still go through email in my case. Some things you always need to keep them private.
  2. Twitter will be my main form of communication: It is mine, too! Well, actually not just Twitter, but micro-sharing / micro-blogging social software tools in general. I use several of them both internal and externally in order to quickly reach out to folks and share information / knowledge quickly. What I like is the variety of options I have: 140, 250 and 500 characters. So I can even write down slightly longer messages than usual and get them across to an individual or to my entire set of network(s).
  3. For longer conversations, there’s IM or Skype chats: I live on these! Instant Messaging is probably the main tool I use on a daily basis to escape email’s yoke successfully. I am way much faster sharing information across through a short exchange of quick messages on IM than an ever lasting mail threaded discussion. Oh, and if that set of messages tend to go on and on and on, I usually turn to VoIP or the phone and talk. Like I have been saying all along, I have always been considering myself a fast typist, yet, I talk much faster! So what initially may take me a couple of minutes to get across, with the phone or VoIP I can relay that same message in a matter of seconds … and move on …
  4. For collaboration, I’ll use Google Docs and/or wikis: I must confess I don’t really make heavy use of Google Docs; instead I use plenty of other collaborative, knowledge sharing and social software tools like wikis (As well!), blogs, Activities, file sharing tools, social bookmarks, online community spaces, etc. etc. And I still keep following that golden rule: If it is not confidential or sensitive in nature, outside the Inbox, please. Let’s bring the conversation out there with a chance for everyone to chime in and contribute. Not just me.
  5. Friends and family can call me: Indeed, I do this one, too! And quite heavily. This bullet ties in quite nicely with what I consider my private life and in this case it’s no longer about respecting my own, but also that one of others, so a phone call is always much more efficient in this matter, specially, when once again, I can talk faster than type. And when trying to keep up with family and friends there is always time to talk. Not to write. Make it (more) personal.
  6. A few types of emails will get through for now: In my case two different types of emails still get through that would require my attention and which I have already talked above briefly above. First the calendaring and scheduling notifications which I still need to process so that they go into my calendar (I still haven’t found a way around that one!) and, secondly, the 1:1 conversations with an individual on a subject that may be rather sensitive or confidential and where the dialogue needs to happen but only for our eyes to see. The rest? … All out!

From there onwards, Leo gets to share as well a very interesting FAQ section where he shares some additional insights on the reactions from his readers on this very same topic. Worth while reading through it, for sure. I must say that, out of all of the various questions the one I found the most interesting was this one: "I couldn’t do it — it’s required for my business". He gets to share a wonderful reply which I would want to point you folks to it as opposed to just reproduce it over here, but my first reaction to that question was… "What did you go in your business before email arrived?" Pretty much that, I am sure: business.

Well, the same would apply over here. Just like Leo mentioned, there are a whole bunch of fitter and more suitable collaborative and knowledge sharing tools to work better amongst groups (Teams & Communities), i.e. social software, and certainly one of the things we are realising over time is how restricted/-ing and limiting email has been all along, and still is, when we get more and more exposure to some of these social tools, which certainly encourage us to share our knowledge in a much more open, public and transparent manner. Something difficult to obtain through email alone, don’t you think?

So if we made that first switch a few decades ago with email (And survived!) and then we switched a second time with the introduction of Instant Messaging (And we also survived that one!), what’s stopping us from making a third switch in order to augment, even further, each and everyone of those former interactions we keep having by making heavy use of social software? Oh wait … Yes, I know… 

Ourselves.

(Remember the change starts within you)

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4 Comments »

  • Glenn says:

    These six steps are why I think that Google Wave is so promising. Waves are easily embedded anywhere. The interface is similar to micro-blogging but larger conversations are OK too. You also get to aggregate your blips and waves in an email style GUI.

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Glenn! Thanks a lot for dropping by and for the feedback comments. Yes, I agree with you that Google Wave surely is going to become rather interesting, but I decided a while ago I would want to wait and see it playing live to make up my mind whether Wave would be as disruptive as what most folks have been saying. I am not really sure.

      Certainly, it can bring the next wave of email interactions, but, just like email, it may have got one specific issue that will make it difficult to compete with social software: serendipituous knowledge discoveries from weak ties, which is basically the main reason why social software is so powerful.

      We would have to wait and see how it paves out, but certainly, it will be rather interesting. Thanks for the comments!

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  • [...] 2.0 community about where email fits in this new puzzle. Luis Suarez talks about how he managed to kill his inbox and kick the email habit altogether, whereas Sam Driessen suggests the complete opposite — [...]

  • I have a good collections of top twitter tools on my site.

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