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

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A World Without Email – Year 3, Weeks 11 to 18 (Social Networks Spur the Demise of Email in the Workplace)

Gran Canaria - Municipio de MogánLike I have just mentioned in another blog post, I am making my way already to Boston to attend, and present, at the Enterprise 2.0 conference event that will start taking place next week Monday. And the excitement is building up more and more by the day. I am currently drafting this blog post on my way to Chicago, but I’m sure I’ll only be able to post it once I settle down in Boston, later on today or tomorrow morning on Sunday…  Either way, I will have plenty of time to spare for this one flight, right?, so I thought I would go ahead and put together another blog post. One that would include a much long overdue update on how things are going with that work related activity of living "A World Without Email". It’s about time, don’t you think?

Yes, that’s right! I guess it’s about time that I share an update on how things are going, if they are still going… A bunch of the good friends who are going to be in Boston next week have asked me lately whether I’m still going strong with that, now consolidated, experiment of "giving up email at work" or whether I have abandoned it myself altogether and moved into other things… No, I haven’t, quite the opposite! Going stronger than ever!

If you would remember, the last time that I put together a blog post on this topic was about two months ago. Yes, two months! So I guess it’s a good time to come back and share with you folks what’s been happening. I am not planning on sharing the various weekly progress reports, since you would be able to check out all of those eight weeks directly from the latest one. However, what I thought would be rather interesting would be to include that new graphic that includes the timeline, week by week, from  over the last three years so you can see how the number of incoming emails I have received has been decreasing consistently and steadily over those three years. And how that trend seems to be consistent.

Thus without much further ado, here you have got the latest progress report and that comparative new graphic to see things in perspective:

A World Without Email - Year 3, Weeks 11 to 18

And here is the graphic itself with the timeline from the last three years for the first 18 weeks of each year:

A World Without Email - A Comparative of Year 3, First 18 Weeks of Emails Received

As you would be able to see from both snap shots, the decrease on the amount of incoming emails has been rather notable, specially from the second year into the third, where you would expect that things may not be the case. Let’s talk about some of those numbers…

For the first 18 weeks in Year #2 the total amount of emails received was 461, whereas in Year #3 that number has been 323. So that basically means 138 less emails from one year to another. Or to put it in another way, in Year #2 I got an average of 26 emails per week for the first 18 weeks, whereas for those very same 18 weeks in Year #3 the average has been 18 emails received. Not bad. Not bad at all!! Well under the 20 emails per week mark I have been going for over the last 16 months! Very nice, indeed!

The interesting thing from this particular trend is how, as I keep getting less and less emails at work, most of my interactions keep happening elsewhere, as you folks already know, i.e. social networking tools; however, as a result of that, I am finding out as well how more and more those colleagues who used to rely on email quite heavily, instead, take the plunge and start relying more and more on the same social software tools where I usually hang out. End result? Well, that over time a good chunk of our mutual knowledge sharing and collaborative efforts will be happening out there in the open, available to everyone to participate in, or not, depending on the need and / or the context. But the option is right there, which is not the same thing I could say about email itself, for instance.

Later on, in another blog post, perhaps, I will go ahead and share with you folks a couple of charts I keep reusing myself at various different conference events and workshops that cover the incredibly massive transformation that IBM is going through with its wider adoption of social software within the enterprise. To the point where some of that growth has been, if anything, rather exponential. Rather shocking, I can tell you, if you come to think how email driven IBM has been all along, and, perhaps, still is in some areas. It really is rather exciting to witness such transformation and even more exciting to show and help demonstrate how knowledge workers can remain as productive as ever, if not more!, by making use of these social tools!

That’s why, like I have said a couple of times already, there is no way back for me. I have seen the light; the many benefits; the tremendous power of relying on your social networks to get the job done as a group activity in half the time for simple things like putting together a presentation on whatever the topic, or helping answer the questions by the right experts; the lack of stress having to process hundreds of emails every week; the huge opportunity to share and collaborate in a much more open, public and transparent manner; in short, the unprecedented opportunity to take back control of my own productivity and, as a result of that, help others benefit from that exposure to an increasing and constant learning path, while on the job, established by those social networks. Priceless!

And in this context, I thought it would be a good idea to move on and share with you folks a couple of rather interesting links relevant to this topic of living "A World Without Email" that can certainly help set the stage on why email perhaps doesn’t cut it anymore as the main dictator of how communication and collaboration should happen.

The first link is a WSJ article put together by Sue Shellenbarger under the title Email Backlash Builds and which pretty much describes a rather interesting experiment from an American company, SuccessFactors, that just recently decided to stop using email for an entire week (Not just one Friday, but an entire week!!) and, instead, communicate and collaborate through other means, whether face to face, through the telephone, or, of course, making use of a social networking tools (Microblogging in this case).

I bet you may be wondering what triggered such a radical experiment, right? Well, Lars Dalgaard, CEO of SuccessFactors, puts it quite nicely. And, in fact, when going through the quote I will be including below I just couldn’t help thinking about how some of those various reasons stated in the article are the very same ones that prompted me, amongst several others, to give up on email at work over three years ago in the first place… Here is the quote, so you can have a look:

"Mr. Dalgaard objects to email partly because people use it to avoid talking with others, or to hide negative or critical messages or information from coworkers, sometimes by hitting the “bcc” button. His goal in setting the ban is to get employees “authentically addressing issues amongst each other,” he told employees. “Confront issues head-on, don’t hide behind emails.” So far, the edict is working; people are grabbing their phones or walking to each other’s desks to talk, Mr. Dalgaard says. Employees can still contact each other online through in-house social networks, where groups post short messages that can immediately be seen by everyone"

Goodness! Who would have thought, right? Not sure what you would think, but I suspect that Dalgaard pretty much nails it when detailing some of the evils of email and how knowledge workers keep abusing it for purposes and contexts that should not be used in the first place. Of specific relevance in this case it’s the political reference to using the ".bcc" button. I just can’t remember the last time, it must have been years ago, that I used ".bcc" in a notification. I guess I know now why and suppose I would be rather grateful for it. Indeed, I am! Playing political games through email exchanges can be so harmful to any business that may have a strong, trustworthy, open and transparent corporate culture. So much so that they should be avoided at all costs. Just imagine how much time did you spend the last time you sent, or received!, one of those political ".bcc" or ".cc" to realise the kind of damage they could provoke!

The other interesting reading that I thought was worth while sharing over here is this other one, put together by the smart folks of SocialCast, under the heading "Social Networks Spur the Demise of Email in the Workplace" and which pretty much comes to put together "10 reasons why email is dead". Well, I am not really sure, just yet, to declare whether email is dead or not, but certainly the article brings forward plenty of really good points as to why "email no longer rules the communication dictatorship in the office".

However, I particularly like the graphics used on that blog post that try to demonstrate how email may no longer be the best communication, knowledge sharing and collaborative tool out there within the enterprise and as such, if you would have a chance to read through the article itself I can certainly recommend you check it out and pay special attention to that graphic, because it is rather revealing, to say the least.

It’s probably a rather long read, but certainly, one I can strongly recommend, specially for the sections on Information Overload (Check out the average number of emails that people still send across per day, compare to the statistics I shared above!), Information Fragmentation (On the topic of prioritising incoming emails to figure out what to respond to first), and, finally, the section on Activity Streams, which, by the way, I totally agree with, since that has been my very own same experience when using those activities streams behind the firewall with our very own Lotus Connections Profiles Boards.

Well, I guess that’s enough for an update on what has happened over the last two months of living "A World Without Email"; somehow I suspect that if things continue to follow this trend on the second half of this year I’ll start seeing how more and more I’ll be getting closer to the range of 10 emails, or less!, per week than the just a bit under 20 I’m getting at the moment. And, as you can imagine, somehow, I just can’t wait for that to happen!

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A World Without Email – Year 3, Weeks 9 to 10 (EMail’s Reign Is Over, Social Networking Is The New King)

Gran Canaria - Arguineguin - Playa de las Marañuelas in the SpringI wasn’t planning on putting together another blog post so soon on the (no longer) weekly progress reports on my initiative of living "A World Without Email", but then again late last week, and over the course of the weekend, I saw on my Twitter stream a whole bunch of retweets on what I thought was (Still is!) a rather interesting reading: "CHARTS OF THE WEEK: Email’s Reign Is Over, Social Networking Is The New King". But then it got better when my good friend David Tebbutt followed it up with this rather insightful tweet:

"I said this headline – Email’s reign is over http://bit.ly/cfHLbD – vindicated @elsua . On the graph, email must head south before it does"

So I thought I would come back to the topic and share with you folks what has happened in the last couple of weeks as well as a new report I have put together which I am sure you would find rather interesting. To answer David’s insightful (And rather spot on!) comments with just a single thought I would probably state the following: Yes, email *is* heading south pretty consistently, and badly, over the last three years! At least, for me!

Now, here is the longer story. To get things going let me just point to Year 3, Week #9, and then check out Week #10, embedded below:

A World Without Email - Year 3, Week 10

As you would be able to see, the last couple of weeks I have received well under 20 work emails per week! Yes, I know! Way below 20!! Which I think is a terrific piece of news, since in most cases I would reach such low numbers on the second half of the year; and lo and behold, here we are, on the second quarter of the year and already way below that 20 email per week mark!! But it gets better …

If you check further the various different weeks, you may have noticed, how, except for two of them (With 24 and 25 emails per week, respectively!) the remaining weeks haven’t reached over 20 emails per week at all. A couple of them are actually below 15 emails a week! Whoahhh! That’s just brilliant! And incredibly exciting to see how year in, year out, my work related emails become less and less of a worry to me.

Ok, to answer David’s comment about how email needs to start heading south before we can pronounce it dead (And most of you folks know it’s not a wording I enjoy much, since I still see benefits in making use of email for 1:1 private, confidential interactions and calendaring & scheduling of events), but still playing long with the wording from that link, I thought I would share with you a new chart I have put together where you can see the first 10 weeks for each of the three years where I have given up on corporate email, and eventually moved over to social networking tools.

If there would be a rather revealing report I bet it would be this one. Without any doubt! And here is why:

A World Without Email - A Comparative of 3 Weeks During First Three Years

Take a look at the number of emails received per week, per year, for those first 10 weeks I shared above. You will be able to see how there is a rather substantial reduction in the amount of incoming emails, going from 60 as the highest number of emails for those three years in a single week to just 7 on the third year, as the lowest amount of emails received in a single week so far. But let’s see another interesting set of statistics:

  • Year 2008:  418 emails received for the first 10 weeks
  • Year 2009:  255 emails received for the first 10 weeks
  • Year 2010:  170 emails received for the first 10 weeks

I’m not sure what you would think, but going from 418 emails per week (for the first 10 weeks!) on the first year, down to 170 for that same period of time on the third year is rather remarkable and, in my opinion, a clear sign, that, at least, for me, email *is* heading south on that link to that chart, and that can only mean a good thing: that, finally, I’m now capable of worrying about other things work related and email is not one of them. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling?

The best part though is yet to come … It’d be that one when I’m no longer alone on this one. And, by the looks of it, I suspect it’s not going to take much time anymore. It’s happening more and more often by the day with other knowledge workers out there and I guess very very soon I may have a good bunch of success stories to share with you folks on how other people have managed to give up successfully on their corporate email.

Are you ready to make the big jump? If not, what is it that you are waiting for? Aren’t you making already good use of social networking tools as your core default business tools?

Maybe you should…

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A World Without Email – Year 3, Weeks 1 to 8 (On Email Sanity by Zen Habits)

Gran Canaria - Presa de Ayagaures & Surroundings ...It has been a bit over two months and I guess it would be a good time now for an update on how things have been going so far. Yes, I know in the past I have been blogging about this on a monthly basis, more or less, but as I am making my way into my third year, I feel that blogging about it is going to be more spaced out than ever before. Of course, I’m talking about living "A World Without Email", the initiative I started about two years and two months ago, which I still keep going about, probably for a good while now, where I decided to give up on corporate email for good, Thinking Outside the Inbox.

Yes, indeed, those two have the main major themes I have been running through over the last few months where I have finally ditched corporate email altogether in favour of social software tools. If you would remember, the last time I blogged about this initiative was the entry of the final report for Year 2, Week 52, where I mentioned how during the course of that second year running I was getting an average of 22 emails per week. So how have I been doing over the last two months since that last blog post, you may be wondering, right? Have I given up on giving up corporate email altogether? Still going at it? Still going strong? Still with no regrets of making such a bold move?

You bet! There have been a couple of times, during those last eight weeks, where I thought about stopping with this initiative altogether, since I thought I had proved well enough you *can* survive in the corporate world without making use of email. But then again I thought for myself that perhaps I’m not ready just yet to call it quits that easily. Specially, now that I have been enjoying the true pleasure, and what a treat!, of no longer being dependent on email. Yes, I know, quite a relief!

So I didn’t give up. I kept moving along, now well into my third year without using corporate email and placing, perhaps, a much stronger focus on my continued use of social software tools to help avoid falling into the email trap, once again. But how have I been doing? As usual, I have been putting together a bunch of weekly reports, which you can find over at my Flickr account, but here is the latest one that puts together those eight weeks without email in a row:

A World Without Email - Year 3, Week 8

Not bad, eh? If you do the math, you will see how I have gone from 22 emails per week for Year 2, to 18 emails a week, on average, for Year 3. Indeed, not bad at all! Quite the opposite, don’t you think? I just keep getting less and less emails by the month, by the year. Remember how, when I was starting this experiment I was getting an average of 30 to 40 emails a day? Now it is 18 per week! Absolutely fantastic and something that surely serves as good enough motivation for yours truly to keep pushing gently living "A World Without Email".

I am not sure when I would be blogging again about my next progress report, perhaps in another few weeks, but one thing for certain is that, if things keep going the way they are, I can imagine this year I may well be going below the 15 emails per week mark, which I’m sure would be classified as a huge achievement! But we will have to wait and see …

Talking about huge achievements though, how about your email sanity? Are you keeping in control of it all? Have you declared email bankruptcy already several times? Have you achieved Inbox Zero and still make sense of it all? Before you answer any of those questions, let me ask you to have a look into the really wonderful blog post put together by Leo Babauta, from Zen Habits (One of my all time favourite blogs, by the way!), titled "Email Sanity: How to Clear Your Inbox When You’re Drowning".

It’s an excellent read that I can surely recommend to all of those folks who still make use of email as their primary means of communication and collaboration. It will actually give you a few hints and tips on how you can tame that email beast (Before it takes over from you!) with plenty of great advice on how to handle both already existing emails and incoming ones. It then gets better, because Leo shares some really good piece of advice on how to not only process old emails, but, finally, how to "Stop the Flood", which is, I guess, what most of us may have been suffering from all along.

Lots of great tricks in that article, I can tell you. Worth while a read and all of the time that you may spend on it. However, I thought I would add a couple of thoughts to Leo’s great post by sharing with you folks how I eventually stopped the flood myself over two years ago. So every so often, and from here onwards, I think I’m now, finally, ready to share with you folks the hints and tips I have learned over the years on reducing my email clutter, to the point where it is non-existent at this point in time.

Thus, instead of making a lovely list of "How to" items (Which I guess I can put together as well in subsequent blog entries as time goes by), I thought I would just highlight three different actions I embark on whenever I spend time in email, which nowadays it’s typically about 10 minutes per day versus the two to three hours a day I used to spend on it in the past. But now not anymore.

The key message towards reducing your existing email flood is to eventually do something we all *can* do, which is sending less emails in the first place! Yes, this is related to the same point that Leo makes on his post: if you would want to receive less email, stop sending emails yourself! It’s that easy! So let’s go!:

  • Stop sending emails yourself: This is probably the toughest thing to do; I know how very tempting it can well be to have that poignant question you know has got an easy answer within a matter of seconds by sending an email to this or that other colleague. Bang! Answer is there! Well, stop! Don’t send it just yet! Think! Think about other ways you could make use of to get that answer; whether you could make use of social software tools, or a quick Instant Message, or a phone call or just find the answer online, don’t just hit Send right away. Wait for it as if it were your very very last resort. There is a great chance that by that time you may have found the answer already! And therefore no need to send that email.

    So first step; stop sending emails yourself; think of better, more appropriate, ways of engaging with others. Just because email suits you just fine, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will suit others; in most cases it won’t. Respect that! Help them help you become more productive by not making them waste their time going through their Inboxes hunting just that email. Remember, the more email you send, the more email you will get back! That’s a well known fact!

  • Stop replying to emails: Yes, just as tempting as sending an email yourself, so is replying to people’s emails. You know the drill; you get that lovely email from one of your colleagues with an interesting tidbit of information you could rather respond to or add further on, and, what do you do right away? Indeed, you hit reply! Don’t! Just like I mentioned above: Think!, before you send out that reply. There may be better ways of getting back to that colleague than through email…

    Have you thought about perhaps a quick phone call (Remember, we can talk much much faster than we could ever write down!)?; or an Instant Message, if you see your colleague is online at the moment you have read their email? (This is, eventually, my favourite method of replying back, when the other person is online in IM! So much faster!); or perhaps reply back through micro-blogging/-sharing tools, or maybe a blog, or a wiki, or through an activity stream? Like I said, think before you hit reply, because there is a great chance there’s a better option out there to respond back!

  • Refuse to engage through email: At all costs, if people keep insisting on sending you email after email, and you know there are better collaboration and knowledge sharing tools out there, keep pushing them away into those social tools; show them the way; spend some time with them showing how much you are benefiting from using these other tools so that they would want to try them out themselves. Move email conversations away from your Inbox and into social spaces.

    Unless you are having a 1:1 confidential / sensitive kind of conversation, move it away from your Inbox. Respond back through whatever other means rather than email. What you will be showing is a good response time, at the same time you are already hinting what other better ways folks would have to get in touch with you. And next time around they will be using those instead…

Show them the way; show them how they, too, can free up themselves from the email yoke, that one that keeps adding on additional pressure time and time again, specially when you lose control of it. It all starts with those three, very simple principles:

  • Stop sending emails yourself
  • Stop replying to emails
  • Refuse to engage through email

That’s pretty much essentially how over the course of 3 years, I have now moved from 30 to 40 emails a day, to 18 a week, of which a good bunch of them are calendaring and scheduling notifications that, unfortunately, I still have to process through email. But how long does it eventually take me to click on Accept / Decline on those events? A second? Two seconds? Well, that’s where most of my time spent on email is nowadays and by the looks of it, I guess it’s going to decrease more and more for me, despite what some other people have been saying lately out there.

They say that life nowadays is all about simplyfing both your work and personal lives; well, since email has been ever so disruptive, both in our work and private lives, may be it is now the time to finally break free from it! … For good!

Are you ready? Would you start it today? Could you also live "A World Without Email"?

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A World Without Email — Year 2, Week 52 (Email Is Dead… Long Live Email!)

Tenerife - Los Roques De García & Mount TeideAfter two years, I think that’s probably the first, and last time!, you will see me writing that particular sentence as part of the title of a blog post: "Email Is Dead […]" or its overall content, for that matter. I know there are some people out there who have been following for a while this initiative of living "A World Without Email" and all along it has looked like as if they would want me to see email go and die a painful death. Well, quite the opposite, I must admit. I have never said that email will die or cease to exist. On the contrary, I think it will be there for many many more moons to come. What I have been postulating all along though is a re-birth of email as a messaging / notification system vs. a content repository of various sorts. And here is the final report for Year 2 of having given up on corporate email.

As you may be able to see from the attached weekly progress report, it seems that things have been looking good as well for week #52 with just 19 emails received for that week, thus still right on target for that follow up challenge of 20 emails, or less, received per week that I set at the beginning of the second year:

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 52 - Final Report

But I guess it’s now a good time to share a couple of thoughts in the shape of a final report on what that second year has been like up to this point and share across as well some statistics that I am sure most of you would find interesting and relevant.

The first year of "Thinking Outside the Inbox" I received a total number of 1,647 emails, which is an average of 32 emails per week, with a high peak of 60 emails received in a single week and with the lowest peak being at 3 emails for one week as well. That’s not too bad, considering I started this initiative with an average of 30 to 40 emails a day! Yes, a day!

Now, for this second year, the one on living "A World Without Email" things have gotten even better; I have received a total number of 1167 emails for the entire year, which means an average of 22 emails a week and a reduction of 480 emails overall (Nearly a 30% decrease year to year!). The maximum peak of emails per week was actually 47 and the minimum just one single email in a week!

I know I have mentioned before how I have set up for myself a follow up challenge for this second year to be on 20, or less, emails a week, but I guess 22 isn’t that bad. In fact, not bad at all! When was the last time you ever received 22 emails per week? Before starting this initiative I cannot even think how far back I was getting that kind of email traffic. Probably not even in the late 90s!

So I guess this proves, for the second year running, that there *is* life out there beyond the addiction to corporate email. That you can work at a large email driven corporation (Like pretty much most of them are out there!), as the one I work for, and still remain as productive as ever (If not more!) using social software tools to collaborate and share your knowledge across vs. other traditional ones like email.

I can imagine that plenty of people out there wouldn’t feel comfortable with what I have been doing all of these months in this space, since they aren’t probably too sure whether they would make it work for them or not, but then why not? Why don’t people try it out? Why don’t they dive in, shake that email addiction off and move into much more open, public and transparent interactions? Just for the sake of giving it a try. A single week. Just one week! Not more. Just ONE! What would you lose? Probably not much, right? But think what you would gain altogether…

I do realise that some of the sentences I just shared above may sound a bit too provocative, but then again if I see how most of the folks I collaborate and share knowledge across with have been immersing themselves in using social software tools behind the firewall (Lotus Connections Profiles micro-blogging/-sharing component, Activities, Communities and Files have been a bit hit over the last few weeks!) I would say there is no way back. Once you decide to step in, take the social tools for a spin, you won’t be back; or, at least, with the same kind of email volume as before and that can only be a good thing, don’t you think?

Anyway, why did I title this blog post with the final progress report as "Email Is Dead … Long Live Email!", specially after all I have written all along, and after all of the details I have shared over here over the course of the last few months? Well, like I have been saying all along, I don’t think that email will die a painful death; quite the opposite, it will probably re-purpose itself into becoming what it was originally designed for many decades ago: a messaging / notification system. Right now I still make use of it to process two different types of interactions:

  • Calendaring and Scheduling events: so that I can process my meetings, conference calls and whatever else from the agenda (Usually I spent about 15 to 20 minutes per week to go through them). You see? For this only purpose, unless someone shows me something different, I will *always* be using email for this context, but then again, is it really email itself or just calendaring and scheduling notifications? What do you think?
  • 1:1 Interactions of a Confidential or Sensitive Nature: Of course, I bet you wouldn’t want to discuss out in public things related to your salary payslip from last month, right? Or perhaps whatever other HR related sensitive issue(s); or if you are talking about confidential information that you wouldn’t want others to know. At least, not initially. You see? This is another scenario that still forces me to use email, although I must confess that in most cases I sort out such kind of interactions through a private Instant Messaging conversation or a phone call. Much faster.

Thus, as you can see, I still see good uses for corporate email. Pretty much like the folks over at Wrike who have put together this rather interesting, and thought-provoking, Slideshare presentation under the heading "Email Is Dead … Long Live Email". I would strongly advise you all to spend a few minutes going through the charts, so that you have an opportunity to find out plenty more why there’s still a good, and solid!, business case for some interactions happening through email.

For me though, it’d be the calendaring & scheduling of events, as well as those 1:1 sensitive / confidential interactions. I bet for you there may be some others. Wrike’s deck puts together things in context on what may potentially be a successful adoption of social software tools starting with … yes!, email! Pretty much along the lines of the latest Google initiative that just launched today: Google Buzz and which relies quite heavily on … yes!, GMail!

You see? Email is not dead! By far! It’s here to stay with us for a long long while! However, after two years, and going into my third consecutive year, I still prefer, and very much so!, to live "A World Without Email". And you? Can you let it go? Will you let it go?

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A World Without Email – Year 2, Weeks 49 to 51 (EMail Is Where Knowledge Goes to Die)

Tenerife - Mount Teide's SurroundingsIt has been nearly a month since the last time I put together a blog post over here on how I’m doing living "A World Without Email" and, while looking into the last few weeks, I have just realised that I’m almost on the closure of the second year experiment of giving up on corporate email altogether. So I thought I would write down today the one before last blog entry for Year #2 of those weekly (Now probably more monthly) progress reports sharing some further insights on the state of things at this point, as I am about to close the second year of this my new reality.

Over at my Flickr account you would be able to see the weekly progress reports for weeks #49 and #50. However, for week #51 I am going to share it over here, so you can get a quick glimpse of what the last three weeks have been like put together in combination. So here you have it:

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 51

As you would be able to see things are looking amazingly good, since, during the course of those three weeks, I received a total number of 44 emails, with an average of 14 per week! Yes, 14 emails received per week! Not sure what you would think, but I am feeling incredibly excited that what started as 30 to 40 emails a day (Nearly two years ago), it’s now turned to 14 emails a week! Huge achievement, if you ask me, and well on target for that follow up challenge that I set up at the beginning of the year of receiving 20, or less, emails a week. Yes, I know … double w00t!!!

If you notice, you will see there has been a steady decrease in the number of emails received over the last few weeks, yet that doesn’t mean that virtual online interactions have not been taking place. Actually, quite the opposite. I can certainly share with you folks how the number of those online interactions through social software tools have tripled during that time. Specially, for my second most frequently used social software tool while at work: Lotus Connections (Lotus Sametime is still number #1, by the way).

It looks like, at a much faster pace than last year, fellow colleagues are starting to experience how powerful some of the offered capabilities behind the firewall can well be; specially, for something so trivial, yet so incredibly useful as Lotus Connections Profiles’ Micro-blogging/-sharing component. I will probably be sharing some general statistics on IBM’s internal usage of that Profiles capability, but I can certainly tell you how well used it is at the moment that I am starting to see the effects myself by spending most of the time in there collaborating and sharing knowledge with my peers.

To me, it’s like a nice catching up exercise, because I have been using that functionality from the very first moment that it became available in previous beta versions, and most IBMers are starting to see the main benefits of using such micro-blogging/-sharing component versus using other traditional tools, like email. Yes, it’s plenty of good fun seeing how after these two years, nearly, I am not that crazy weirdo anymore for abandoning email and, instead, using social software tools. Things are catching up rather quickly! Exciting times!

I know at this point in time you may be wondering what kinds of interactions do I have on a regular basis interacting through Profiles Boards, right? Well, not to worry, I am already putting together another draft blog post where I am listing a Top 10 set of activities that I come across rather often when interacting, behind the firewall, on our very own instance of Lotus Connections. However, I will share with you what’s probably the number #1 activity I embarked on through micro-blogging/-sharing behind the firewall…

Questions and Answers! Indeed, the good old Q&A that every single knowledge worker engages with time and time again during the course of the week and, in most cases, several times a day. As you can imagine, using micro-blogging/-sharing tools for Q&A already provides me with lots of advantages to help me reduce my email clutter even more.

Oh, and I am not the only one feeling the very same thing. Did you have a look into the wonderful blog post that Jeremy Sluyters put together under the title "EMail Is Where Knowledge Goes to Die", where he references that quote I have been using myself for all along from Bill French that clearly describes why I abandoned email a couple of years back? You should read it, if you haven’t done so just yet.

In it, Jeremy gets to share a very compelling use case on how, regardless of the tool, a certain, relatively simple and recurring task, like asking a question and getting an answer, finds its place in using much better and suitable social software tools versus email, providing an opportunity to save time and effort as well as allowing a much easier, and faster!, re-findability of the content originally shared.

Pretty compelling story, I can assure you. One that, once you go through it, will surely help you understand a bit better why living "A World Without Email" has been one of my passions over the last few months and why, as I am about to head into the third consecutive year without using email at work, this is just the beginning. This is just one use case of the kind of impact and business value of using social software tools to collaborate and share your knowledge across the company with your peers. One out of several dozens of them out there. One that has allowed me to reduce my email clutter substantially and that can only be a good thing. But it’s not just the only one. There will be plenty more and I will be looking forward to sharing them all with you in its due course…

For now, an open question for you all out there: are you ready to proclaim and live by our motto on "Email is where knowledge goes to die?"… If not, what’s stopping you? How can we help?

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A World Without Email – Year 2, Weeks 46 to 48 (Are You Ready for Fun?)

Tenerife - Mount Teide & SurroundingsThree weeks ago I started what, to date, has been one of the most amazing and wonderful holiday periods I have had recently. Totally disconnected a large chunk of the time and enjoying every single minute of it! So much so I guess I just can’t wait for the next one!

Alas, three weeks later, it’s all over now. I am back at work! Back online. Back to my virtual work / personal life. Back on to catching up mode as well – as usual! Either way, it’s been fun! Yesterday, was my first day at work and I spent the entire time talking to a bunch of folks as well as trying to get up to speed with what happened since so last year! And I am now done with that catchup! So that basically means that regular blogging activities will resume from here onwards on this blog once again, as well as a bunch of other social networking related ones both inside and outside the firewall!

Yes, it’s good to be back! Fully re-energised and with your batteries fully charged ready to take on to another year of exciting activities, events and whatever other happenings around the subject of KM, Collaboration, Communities, Learning, Social Computing and, of course, Social Software Adoption. On my first day of catchup I have bumped into a whole bunch of very interesting, thought-provoking and inspiring links to content that I am sure I will have a chance to share with you all in the next few days / weeks… Starting today with one of the most amazing video clips I have watched in the last few months! But one step at a time …

Before I go into it I thought I would share with you folks something else. Something you already know about (Or heard of!), if you have been following my little experiment for a while now, something that I plan to keep talking about and sharing further insights on, more than anything else, because somehow I feel that 2010 is going to be *the* year! And you will see what I mean by that on an upcoming blog entry where I will share some further details on another experiment I have just started a couple of days back and which I think most of you would find interesting, if not too controversial. But again … one step at a time …

I thought today though I would talk about the weekly progress reports of that experiment of living "A World Without Email" that I have been running for nearly two years now and which I am sure you may be curious about, since three weeks without checking email and being a massive chunk of that time totally disconnected, could have probably disrupted it quite a bit and get me in some trouble. Well, may be. May be not …

If you check out the weekly progress reports for weeks #46 and #47 you will see something rather stunning and unique that didn’t happen in the past; in fact, hasn’t happened in the 13 years I have been working in the corporate IT world! Yes, that’s right! 13 years! If you check out those weekly progress reports you will see how for those two weeks I have received a total whopping number of 6 emails for both weeks! 5 and 1, respectively! Oh my… yes, 5 emails in a single week, and most amazing … ONE single email in an entire week!

Oh, yes, I know what some folks out there are going to say, "It was a quite time of the year with most folks on holidays and everything" and they are probably right, but then again how many folks out there could state that in those two same weeks they have just received 6 emails (ONE in week #47!). Probably not many, right? But there they are; the two weeks with the lowest number of incoming emails ever (Except for one week last year where I got 3 in the entire week!) — SIX emails! Whoahhhh! Nice one!

Alas it didn’t last for much longer, because here you have got the progress weekly report for week #48:

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 48

where you will be able to see how folks seemed to have come back to work again on that week, because I went from one email the previous week … to 20 the week after. But that’s not too bad. In fact, not too bad at all! Still right on target for that follow up challenge of receiving 20, or less emails, a week. We are there, folks, we are there! Just four more weeks to complete the second year experiment of giving up on corporate email and, instead, make use of social software tools to collaborate and share knowledge with my fellow colleagues and peers.

Yes, I know I am probably having far too much fun with all of this, and you are probably right, but after the link I am about to share with you, I think that fun has just gotten started! I am enjoying it far too much and guess I’ll continue to do so for a while. After all, who wouldn’t want to go away on holidays for three full weeks (And a bit more!) and come back finding out he / she had a lovely surprise with just 26 emails received sitting in their Inbox?!?

Yes, indeed, the fun will continue for 2010, I am sure! And I am hoping to be sharing plenty more insights on the overall experience and how I am making it work for me and those I regularly work / collaborate with. But now, talking about fun, I would let you all go and watch the wonderfully delightful video clip that my good friend Chris Brogan found yesterday and who shared it over at this blog post: "Are You Ready for Fun".

It’s about a YouTube video that lasts for a little bit over five minutes, and which has got the nice and enticing title of "The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun" and that’s exactly what you will find in there… Not just plenty of great fun watching it through, but also plenty of very powerful messages on how much fun influences us all as who we are: human beings with emotions and with that unique capability of enjoying and celebrating a bit of fun every now and then. Well, after watching through the video, make that not just a bit of good fun, but plenty of it! That’s the kind of impact the video clip will have in you after you watch it. I am sure.

I can certainly recommend you stop doing everything you may be doing at the moment and click on the Play button below. Sit back, pump up the volume, relax and get ready to go through one of the videos that will surely change the way you view things for 2010. It surely has changed mine and in an upcoming blog post I will comment on it some more so you can get to see why. But for now, let’s keep the fun going, shall we?

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