Close Your Email and Get Some Work Done

October 31, 2015

8:00 pm

When I watch HBO’s Game of Thrones (which won a record 12 Emmy’s this year) I can’t help but think how much easier and less bloody this world would be if they weren’t relying on pigeon post. Many crises in Westeros could have been avoided by having faster communication channels like email. And then I think about Star Wars with its space ships, advanced technology, and communication via holo calls. Do you think the Death Star would have been built if managers in charge had to use email based project management? The only time in Star Wars sending text based messages is important is in Episode IV when Death Star plans were relied through R2-D2.

As we can see, it’s a thing of perspective and “where you are.” Throughout human history big technological advancements have increased production, made the world smaller and then become obsolete. Startups have an advantage: they can build their company to rely on the most modern communication tools like Slack and not waste energy using outdated ancestral technologies like email.

The Aging Email

From ships that could sail the ocean to radio and the Internet, the speed of communication available for companies is still decreasing. And now we’ve come to a point where email no longer satisfies our needs. This tool that was crucial for creating the Internet as we know it, has become something that slows us down. When we look at the current average volume of hundreds of email a day, it is no longer possible to handle them.

I get to work Monday morning and see that my mailbox is full of messages. Most of them are newsletters and offers, while some are work-related questions sent late at Friday night and over the weekend. I can only hope that some of the other email is worth my time. If you sit in your desk and try to work, a new notification pinging on the screen is terribly distracting. And if I try to make sense of all of it, I’d spend the day reading and replying.

Recently I’ve started not opening my inbox before I’ve done every productive task I have to do that day. Just to fight the urge to answer each and every message right away. And the world hasn’t fallen apart if I only use email a couple of hours a day.

All in all: email has become pretty evil. It’s slow and it’s distracting from both work and efficient communication. It may still be one of the most popular channel of communication for companies but it’s evil and should fall into the ruins of history like telegraph, pigeon post, and couriers on horse.

Alternatives to Email

According to an Email Statistics Report 2013 – 2017 by The Radicati Group, Inc, 116 billion business emails are sent each day and this number is probably still going to increase in the near future. At the same time consumers are moving on and relying more on IM, social media and text messaging. And as we know, where consumers go, businesses must follow.

If we talk about internal communication, email based progress reporting is still frighteningly popular. Yet, I don’t know a single manager who loves going through and summarizing 30 or 40 e-mail reports that spam their inbox every week.

“Wait a minute!” I hear people yell. “How can we get work done if we don’t use e-mail?” Well, there are plenty of alternatives.

Have a Skype call, use tools for company chats or use progress reporting and project management. I have basically adapted the idea that if you need something for working online, there’s an app for that by some startup. The trick is to figure out what you, personally, need. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

As tech entrepreneur and former Skyper Sten Tamkivi from Teleport told me in a recent interview:

“Some companies fall behind and die quicker than the dinosaurs. Some become postmodern and are the first to adopt Oculus Rifts as their main work environment, a chance to become a laughing stock for a while before you become the new normal.”

The Younger You Are, the Better

If you’re just starting to run your company, you’re in luck. It’s much easier to incorporate “limited e-mail policies” into your culture early on and not face the painful process of chancing e-mail based communications.

For others I can only say, the time has come. If you don’t want to go the way of dinosaurs, you must be ready for some pain. Don’t be afraid, in the end you’ll emerge stronger, faster and more productive.

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Alexander Maasik is a communication specialist and content creator at Weekdone - weekly employee progress reports. Alexander has a degree in journalism and public relations and a strong passion for communications and online collaboration.

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