Tuesday, 7 November 2006

E-mails - distraction or effective tool?

I don't know about you, but I suffer from e-mail distraction. I find it hard to restrict myself to checking for new mail at one point in the morning, and another in the afternoon; especially if I'm expecting a response to something 'important' - so I leave the notification alert turned on (a time-management no-no).

Today's post is about the effective use of e-mail. All too often it is easy for us to send an e-mail which in some cases can be used to avoid potentially uncomfortable situations (so it becomes a safety blanket), to be more informal and say something that you perhaps might not say to some one's face, etc. These aren't good reasons and they are not as effective in terms of building and maintaining relationships with people as face-to-fact contact is. Over the past year I've made a conscious effort to send less (and more concise) e-mails and increase face-to-face/phone contact. Without question I have developed working relationships that are better for it.

For example, a colleague sent an e-mail asking who could attend a work social evening and received just a handful of replies. However, when they got up from their desk and spoke one-on-one with people, they were willing to say, 'Yes, I'll come along'.

With people copying all and sundry on e-mails, we suffer from e-mail overload and it is very easy to scan something and intend to deal with it later. If someone is face to face (or even on the telephone) it is frequently easier to get a result, i.e. more effective.

So next time you send an e-mail, stop, think, and get off your chair or pick up the phone. Try making e-mail the last thing instead of the first, the results may just surprise you.

If you have a few minutes, take a look at the following resources:

E-mail round up by Particle Tree

Manager Tools Podcast if you manage your own e-mail

Manager Tools Podcast if you have an admin managing your e-mail

Pick up a copy of 'Getting Things Done' by Dave Allen, if you can get the habit then it will make quite the difference. For reference, I've got a long way to go!


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