A World Without Email – Year 3, Weeks 29 to 51 (The Email Starvation Continues…)
One more week to go and I am done with another year of living “A World Without Email“; the third one in a row and still going rather strong at it, despite the numerous feedback I have been receiving from people over the last few months on whether I have given up on it altogether, since they didn’t hear much from me in that respect and thought I had quietly given up on giving up corporate email altogether and didn’t say much about it. So I thought I would go ahead and spend a few minutes today sharing plenty of the good progress I have made over the last five and a half months, since the last update. Yes, indeed, the conclusion so far is that it *is* possible to live a corporate life without using work email! So far I am down to 17 emails received per week! Yes, that’s a reduction of over 95% in my email traffic over the last three years!
Thus what has happened in the last five and a half months, since I published the last progress report, you may be wondering, right? Well, I will tell you shortly what has happened with my progress, but it looks like elsewhere things are looking very good for everyone else to start thinking they, too, can re-purpose how they process and work through their overblown mail inboxes and find better ways of connecting, communicating, collaborating and sharing their knowledge. And that’s an even better news! Even Dilbert has been having a go in describing, very accurately, the state of email, just as the priceless Oatmeal brilliantly did not long ago as well.
Just recently we have seen a good number of studies and research done that demonstrates consistently the full power of social networking and social software tools in helping, successfully, reduce the amount of traffic generated by knowledge workers, which in some cases has been accounted as much as 28% and 27% in email traffic reduction altogether! And that’s just huge, if you ask me! Imagine now when people start relying more and more on these social tools and they reach similar levels to the ones I have been enjoying myself for the last few months. Totally insane is a word that comes to mind!
At the same time the amount of interesting and relevant reading materials covering not just productivity tips, but also mistakes, and lessons learned from managing your Inbox better and much more effectively keep coming out at a more rampant pace than ever before, which, to me, seems to clearly indicate how plenty of people are starting to question, and re-think!, the way they take advantage and benefit from their email systems and to some extent those hints and tips, and great insights, help alleviate some of the issues email currently has as a powerful collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. But not all, as a few folks have already ventured to state. Perhaps the most intriguing reading you will bump into out there in this regard is that absolutely wonderful blog post put together by my good friend Stowe Boyd under “Liquid Email“, which tries to re-define email within the current context of the flow from the Social Web. Very relevant to start thinking how we are going to re-purpose what we know is not going to disappear any time soon, and, instead, get the most out of it in a new form / shape reflecting our current needs, not those from 10 or 20 years ago!
Now, not to worry, I am not ready just yet to declare, in full force and rather out loud, that email is dead, because it is not! By far, as plenty of folks have been highlighting over the course of the last few weeks; but what I can certainly state, based on my own experiences, and the various links I have been including in this blog post as reference materials (Lots of great insights in each and everyone of them!), is that email has got its days numbered … as we have been using it all along in the last few decades. We are finally seeing the light and acknowledging that what once was the king of communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing is no longer the case in today’s world with the Social Web having a much more relevant and purposeful set of intentions that are driving how we connect, share and innovate with our peers, but also with our customers and business partners. So, email is just one more of the options we have got available out there. Not the only one, as we seemed to have claimed for a while now. It’s time for us to understand how there are, after all, better tools out there to help us get the job done much more effectively and efficiently altogether.
And that’s essentially what I have been trying to prove for the last three years of living “A World Without Email“; that you can be as productive as ever, if not more!, that you can connect effectively across not just with your team, but with the entire corporation, your clients and other fellow peers, that you can eventually regain back your own productivity and help enhance that one of others by making extensive use of social tools as well and not just email. Thus, without much further ado, I think it’s a good time to go ahead now and share with you folks the weekly progress report of the last 22 weeks, from week #29 till week #51, so you can have a look into how I have been coping with that email reduction all along for the last few months (Yes, I know I am a little bit late sharing that status report… it’s been rather hectic all over the place! hehe), but also how you can find some interesting data that still gives me the impression there is still plenty of work ahead of us for that even more substantial email decrease!
As you would be able to see, the numbers have remained rather steady on the low side, which means that throughout all of those months, and eventually, for the whole year, I have managed to stay well under the mark of 20 emails received per week, which I think is a pretty nice achievement for the the third year in a row I have been doing this experiment. You may have noticed as well how during those few weeks I have been having a peak with the highest number of emails received in a single week with 44 (Last year I had one of 47 and the previous one of 60, so even those peaks are decreasing as well!), and also a couple of instances where I have reached single digit figures for that week, which is really nice, because that, eventually, is my final goal!
However, one other interesting tidbit, as you may have seen from the progress report, the last three weeks the number of emails received per week has gone up, compared to previous weeks and it looks like it continues to keep the momentum going. Well, that’s about to drop off this week, because we are in Lotusphere 2011 week! Yes, that’s right, when analysing those email stats I realise that most of that traffic was Lotusphere related; you know, preparing logistics, setting up meetings with customers and business partners, arranging last minute tasks and todos, etc. etc. And, if I look at previous years, during the week of the event, and right after, the numbers will drop even further down than what they have so far!
You see? This is what I mean when I mentioned I still have got plenty of work to do, helping my own organisation make the switch and rely much heavily on social tools than email. If you would remember, back in the day, it was three years ago, nearly, that I decided to carry out this experiment and one of the many reasons was actually coming back from Lotusphere and finding myself with hundreds of emails to process and myself reaching the point of declaring enough is enough! I need to regain my long time ago lost productivity! Well, as I am about to enter the 4th consecutive year of giving up on corporate email, what a better way of closing this blog entry with a quote from Stowe himself once again from another recent article which I think summarises quite nicely the very fate of email in the next few months…
“So we are slowly starving email, relegating it to a shorter and short list of appropriate uses. In time, it will fall off the edge, like fax is now that we can scan and send attachments more easily than using dedicated fax machines. We will find that email will be left with a short list of uses, like monthly mailing from the bank, or travel itineraries from Expedia. These relative impersonal communications with companies will be the final resting ground for email, and then, even that will wink out when a better metaphor for social interaction with companies becomes dominant“
Well, let the email starvation continue for another year! I won’t be missing it either when it is gone!
Long live “A World Without Email“!