Today my colleague, cohort, and WonderTwin(tm) Kelly Smith posted an announcement on our work blog launching our mission to reclaim our lives and work back from the in-box of dooooom. She and I, along with at least two other colleagues are tackling these beasts we call our in-boxes.

Ok, so maybe we’re not being quite as provocative as it sounds, but we ARE jumping on board to what we see as some rather revolutionary thinking: starting today we are working outside of the inbox. (#WOTI is the tag and acronym for “Working Outside The Inbox” and one you’ll likely be seeing a lot of in the next year…)

We adopted the idea from our hero, Luis Suarez, and decided to follow in his footsteps this year. Still sounding too provocative for you? It really isn’t… everyone can play along, it’s THAT easy.

Don’t get me wrong, email is indeed a great tool for 1-1 discussion in a transactional format; that is, someone gives information or asks a question, and in return another person gives or asks as well. Email is decidedly not the best tool for many things that we use it for today: discussions, decision-making, file sharing, file repositories, knowledge sharing, newsletters, and announcements.

As Kelly notes in out work blog: “We have the collaborative technology. We have the skillz”. And she’s right. Over the past few years she and I have adopted a much more collaborative focus to our work, using the various tools at our disposal to ensure we can accomplish tasks with as much efficiency and effectiveness as possible and have both been preaching the word of transparent collaboration for quite a while now.

The difference now is that we’re more focused, more structured, and will be tracking our progress. I KNOW my incoming email had reduced significantly over the past year, but this year we are going to be able to quantify it and show solid results… starting today.

How, I can hear you ask, do we intend to accomplish such a hefty goal? Easy I say: we’ve absconded with Luis’ Magic 3 step program, and added a fourth step of our own:

  1.  Stop replying to email. The more email you reply to, the more email you will receive. It is a never-ending cycle. Mind you, this doesn’t mean I won’t reply to ANYTHING that comes into my inbox, but rather that I will be much more focused and judicious as I implement step 2 before I reply:
  2. Use the right tool for the right conversation. This means identifying conversations/tasks (use cases) that can be accomplished more easily, more transparently, more efficiently, and with less cost, using a more appropriate social tool. Sometimes that will be email. Most of the time, it won’t.
  3. Start moving those conversations/tasks to their appropriate home. This won’t be a light switch situation, rather it will happen slowly and surely.
  4. Record progress, set an example, evangelize and act as a change agent. This is the one we added on… because without monitoring progress, it is very difficult to show tangible value. Additionally, without evangelizing and acting as change agents, we’re just doing this in a silo with no further effect, which isn’t our intent at all…

So what IS our intent if it isn’t to just reduce the amount of email cluttering our respective in-boxes? Again, another easy answer: we intend to act as examples and agents of change to help show our organizations how much more efficient and effective we can ALL be by using the *right* collaborative tools.

We intend to do this mindfully and conscientiously; to drive change for the benefit of us all, not just the individuals jumping on this project… given Luis’ data over the 4 years he’s been doing this, he’s proven the value and effectiveness of such an undertaking.

Want to join us? Its easy! Just start following the four steps above!
We’ll be posting periodic updates over on our “Notes from Rational Support” blog so you can see our progress. Feel free to comment there with your own progress as well and before long you’ll start seeing marked improvement. In fact I’ve heard told that your hair will be more luxurious, you’ll become more attractive, you’ll be promoted to executive status, and money will fall out of the sky for you…

Okay, that last sentence may not be entirely (at all) true, but I can assure you, reducing the amount of email coming to your inbox will make you a much happier person.


4 thoughts on “Email is dead to me

  1. That’s all fine and well if you have, and can identify, the appropriate tools. Likely, I won’t have the right tools at my place of business, but that is another issue. (eg: we still regularly use the hard copy fax machine around here only to scan the fax into the computer because just about everyone refuses to use the data fax line we have set up.)
    I humbly request examples of types of collaborations and the associated tools as you see them in a future blog post. That would be nice and helpful to those of us who may not even know what tools we may be lacking.

    1. I’ve taken most of this from replies I made on my earlier Facebook posting (see, knowledge reuse for the win!):

      Sometimes the ‘right tools’ aren’t 100% perfect, but they’re better for the conversation than email. Generally speaking, this initiative is to find the right tool for the conversation… sometimes that will indeed be email. Most of the time, however, there are better tools to use which foster deeper collaboration and more transparency. Tools like forums, wikis, and blogs to name a few. We also rely heavily on instant messaging (via SameTime) for those quick 15 second one-off conversations since most of us aren’t ‘nearby’.

      Without sounding like a total shill, I am 100% sold on our own product: IBM Lotus Connections, which provides community tools like the above, as well as file repositories, Activities (to-dos), bookmarks, and a host of other features to really make transparent collaboration and knowledge sharing much more effective.

      And yes, sometimes email is necessary for confidential 1-1 conversations. Our intent here is to transform email from being a Q&A or task based tool which hoards and privatizes knowledge into a notification system which updates you when new knowledge is available in the right tools.

      Initially, we’ve defined a few categories of emails, and broken them up into good/bad. Good being the Auto-notifications, calendar scheduling notices, and personal/confidential messages. Bad being the Q&A, status updates, and CorpComms/Announcements all of which would be better suited to sharing via channels like blogs, wikis and forums.

      Mind you, our direct intent isn’t immediate organization change (that comes later), but rather to do what we can for our own inboxes and help others see that there are better channels for communication and knowledge sharing which really have a direct effect of improving effectiveness and efficiency.

      If you can, I’d recommend watching this recent quick 4 minute documentary on why Luis did this back in 2008:

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