How many emails did you receive today? We all moan about getting too many emails and keeping up to date with our inbox is a challenge most business people struggle with. But does new technology really signal the end of the overflowing inbox?
The latest statistics show that more than 108.7 billion business emails are sent and received every day. This is a staggering figure, but it is predicted that this number will grow to more than 139 billion over the next couple of years. We really are sinking under a mass of electronic communication.
I have to admit that I am old enough to remember when email first became a serious business tool. It was around the 1990’s when the world wide web also took off big time. Email was great… what used to be sent in the form of a letter or memo could now be done easily, at reduced cost and it would arrive almost instantaneously too. it really changed the way we shared information.
Now there are many alternatives to just email. So can these new technologies really shrink our in box and make us more productive?
Many people use email to disseminate company news and similar mass communications to their entire organisation. Whilst this information may be interesting, it is not vital that everyone sees it at the same time. In these cases why not consider setting up a company face book page that people can access. The downside of course, is that people need to be disciplined in how frequently they access this resource, and how long they spend on looking at it. Time saved opening emails can just as easily be spent gazing at face book.
You can, of course, use email to send information in the form of attachments. But if these attachments are very large they may not be able to be sent by your server, or be received by the recipient’s server. Rather than split up the attachment into smaller documents and sending multiple emails, why not use a file sharing service, such as Dropbox, which you can set up quickly and easily.
Social media has spawned a plethora of real-time communication tools, such as Chatter, HipChat, Convo and Yammer - to name just a few, that are frequently touted as being an email replacement. These tools allow instant sharing of messages and pictures with multiple people simultaneously contributing and create a visual trail of the conversation. Whilst they undoubtedly are useful for promoting collaboration in remote or virtual teams, they are an addition to rather than a replacement for traditional email.
So if we do want to reduce the time we spend processing our inbox, what can we do?
1. Lead by example. Think before you press send… is email the best way to communicate this to the other person? Do they really need to get it at all?
2. Instead of sending multiple emails, why not arrange a short meeting or conference call. It is often a quicker and more effective method when you need to get resolutions and agreements to issues.
3. Make time to unsubscribe from any unnecessary email lists and set up automatic filtering for the rest, so they don’t clog up your inbox. Then learn to process your inbox at set times, rather than just dipping in and out every time something new arrives. This technique, known as "batching", is recognised as one way to improve your personal efficiency.
It may not be the end of email, but we can certainly learn to be more disciplined in its use!