Pondering: Email is the Devil

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Remember that day, long, long ago, when you first heard “you've got mail” and were SO excited! I recently watched “You've Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and was reminded of that first dopamine zing from the AOL dial-up sounds.

Well, those days are LONG gone. Now the joy of receiving electronic communication in brief and limited bursts has been replaced with multiple email accounts, spam and endless requests for your time.

I remember when you could work for long, uninterrupted periods of time without continually checking email or having a notification pop up while working. I miss that.

Let's ponder and talk about a few things that could be improved in email communications.

Remember that email is ONE way communication. Beware of using sarcasm or being too subtle in your email. Or a harsh tone as well. The reader does not have the benefit of reading your facial cues and body language while reading your email.

Email DOES get lost sometimes, or stuck in the outbox, into the spam box or some other mishap. Cut people some slack and send a nice second request if they don't respond. They will appreciate it.

Please think twice before sending a ranting email. You will most likely regret it. Give yourself some time to cool down before responding via email, especially in business.

For the love of God and all that is holy, use spell check.

If you are replying to an email, please continue the chain and re-read the previous email, conveniently located at the bottom, before asking a question via the same email conversation.

Subject line? Make it interesting and relevant. Totally worth the time to make it great and get it read.

Short and sweet is best. Have something longer to say, make a phone call. Remember those? The phone is the least used function on my iPhone.

These are a few of the things I have been pondering about email. I leave you with this thought: we are all human and not robots, please don't expect too much from each other. Be generous in spirit and know that everyone is trying their best.

Some helpful gmail  tips to become the master of your inbox.

And I leave you with this question: what do YOU feel the appropriate response time is for email? Do you meet this 24/7? Take a break on the weekend or evenings? 

Just a note: while writing this on a Saturday night, I responded to 9 email. Save me.

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32 Comments

  1. Someone recently told me: “Email is for old people”….lol    Seems the younger generation rely heavily on twitter, SMS and facebook, but e-mail still has an important role to play.  As for the response time, studies have shown that we are increasingly impatient, and expect an answer within minutes of hitting that ‘SEND” button.  Thats why I receive all email on my I-Phone and respond almost immediately, even if only with a short message that says “I’ve received this, and will look into your question shortly.”

    1. That is hilarious! But how do you effectively track business and remember ALL the details if you are texting, Facebook noting and tweeting information? 

      So Bo, are you practically 24/7 with your email on your iPhone? When are you getting a mental break from work and the related communication?

  2. Awesome post, Peg. I am overwhelmed by email accounts, and I’ve gone on a tirade or two that I should have second guessed (even if the offender deserved it). 

    1. I worked with someone who went on tirades on a regular basis and ended up getting fired. She never saw that she was ranting, just thought it was her duty to call other people out for what she felt their offenses were.  As humans, we definitely react to things emotionally and I am sure the person did deserve the email that you sent but since it is a fairly permanent record, it is best to think first. Imagine a day where we emailed back our first reaction on all our email. Youza!

  3. Hi Peggy,

    I think the acceptable response time for business communication is one business day (so skip the weekends and holidays). All others, around a day also. Contrary to some expectations, email is not the same as instant messaging. I have a co-worker who calls within minutes of having sent an email to find out why I have not responded?

    Having fallen victim to email misunderstandings/miscommunications, I like the “short and sweet” theory. I save the complicated stuff for the telephone or in person.

    Lastly, I could not agree more about the lost excitement over You’ve Got Mail! With all of the input from so many sources, I would be overjoyed if I only got a few emails each day. Wading through dozens, many unnecessary, becomes laborious. Certainly not something I look forward to any longer.

    Thanks for your insight!

    Cheers,
    Marc

    1. It will be interesting to see how the expectations will evolve for response to email. It is changing and there are many different “standards” right now. 

      To me, a call to check on an email response within minutes is uncalled for. They could have just called.

      I had a boss who used to go through and read email from the week at the weekly staff meetings. That was the BIGGEST waste of time ever! I read the email when it was sent and I could have been working during that time.

      It all boils down to one thing: communication! 
      Thanks Marc!

  4. So regardless of what you are working on, you stop and respond? It is a challenge for some types of work. If you are writing or deeply engrossed in an excel spreadsheet, it is hard to break your focus and then go back to it again. There is a study that shows it takes up to 15 minutes to get your full focus back on your project. And how many more email did you receive in that time?

    I just think we are setting ourselves up to be hampsters on a wheel.

    1. Such a tricky balance! I just feel like as a society we are setting ourselves up to fail with this type of communication. And I love social media so it isn’t that I don’t like a fast pace. But the personal aspect of communication and overall customer service seems to be denigrating instead of improving.

  5. Hi Peggy. 

    I have to admit, loved the post from the first line… and I’m a bit jealous as I had just recently thought it’d be a wonderful idea to intro an email post with “Remember when you were excited to hear “you’ve got mail””.  😉

    Those days are long gone, but I also think they’re long-gone not because of email itself, but because it’s moved from a fun-exchange to a more professional exchange for most of us.  I wonder if a similar pattern will ever happen with what is social media today… hmm…

    Love the gmail tip graphic.  I admit I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts in gmail; makes it all superquick.  I’ll leave you with a tip of my own from the company I’m working with— writethatname. Automagically updates your email addressbook.  Feel free to check it out here:  writethat.name

    Best from Paris, Brad

    1. Hey Brad!
      You can still write your post, just give me a hat tip and a link back. :)It will be interesting to see how email evolves, dissolves or erodes. Improves? Maybe!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. I think evolves is the right word, not only as a platform, but our use of it.  Email didn’t spell the end of postal mail, but it certainly changed it in many ways.  Will definitely provide the hat tip 😉  Cheers, Brad

  6. How does one spell check lol lmk brb ttyl etc? I’ve fallen victim of my own mantra of the the three email rule, lately and thanks for the kick in the pants, Peg! If I email you, and you respond and I respond to your response, it’s time to pick up a phone. It’s curious in a time when you see people reach for their mobile device rather than possibly making eye contact and have a conversation with a human yet complain about the volume of email. Email, text and voice mail are storage units. If you’re Barrack Obama, you may need to answer that. If you’re the rest of us, have a tall cold glass of relax.

    1. I love your three email rule. I may try that one! The other aspect that confusing it is the conversation through email, Twitter and Facebook. And texting. Yikes!

      I’d love a tall cold glass of relax. Sounds delish! <3

  7. Hey Kenna!
    The time frame seems like a moving target, right? And I think that age does play a factor here. Not the we are oldsters, but response time seems to get lower with age too. Is it the text/immediate gratification factor?
    Cheers Sistah!

  8. I usually have email open when I am on my laptop, with the exception of when I am working on a blog post. I will shut down email and all social media when I need to concentrate. When out and about I will check email on my phone occasionally. I never check it while with friends or during other social settings because I believe that is rude. All is shut off when I sleep too (well, maybe except for my crazy dreams).

      1. I dream about anything and everything. Very detailed and I remember all of them.

  9. I like email and have no idea how we ever got anything done without it. I remember when I used to phone and drop by people’s offices, leaving notes for them and for myself to follow up, etc. Email changed all that.

    With busy projects that have lots of components, phases and various people involved, it’s the only way to keep things organized. It also provides a record of communication which are not only handy references, they can save your butt too! 

    Great post, Peggy, but email is not the devil. Instead, it is a blessing. And as you know, I have a post of my own coming up on this topic!

    1. I do agree with the organizational aspect of email and the ability to go back into a conversation and look up the facts if needed. 

      It is this “I used to phone and drop by people’s offices, leaving notes for them” that I feel is getting lost. The human interaction. And as a society, we are moving that forward to less face-to-face and more “didn’t you see my email.” 

      I am not sure I would consider email a blessing. Technology does have a million advantages (like being able to work at home) but I don’t think that it has propelled communication into a better, more efficient mode.

      1. I think there’s still plenty of human interaction — rare to see anyone without a cell phone to their ear these days. Social media has also increased our connections with one another.

        I guess I see email primarily as an important business tool to facilitate the interactions necessary to get stuff done. The problem is, many people don’t seem to do it properly and that can lead to annoying confusion and more emails — the sort of emails that can make email annoying. If people were just a little more careful, I think the virtues of email are plentiful. My upcoming post will explain this in more detail (and maybe then you will come around! 🙂

        1. I will argue your point that social media has increased our connections. Seems to me that everyone has an electronic device between themselves and the intended party, boss or even their own family. I would also argue that while people are more “connected” that they are communicating on a more shallow level. You know I love social media but I think that the level of communication is not the same. Which gives you more intellectual satisfaction: a great conversation with a friend in person with a beer in hand (assuming that you are not on your iPhone) or having an online conversation with someone? 

          I do agree with this “email primarily as an important business tool to facilitate the interactions necessary to get stuff done.” Looking forward to your upcoming post!

          1. There are pluses and minuses to all this stuff, of course, and I suppose I expanded the debate by bringing social media into the mix 🙂 But… when we are talking about email, naturally we are talking about a way to communicate when you cannot be there in person, so comparing it to “a great conversation with a friend in person” isn’t really the issue. 

            “Everything in moderation” is a fundamental truth that works well for a lot of things and I think works here as well — using each communications vehicle for what it is in the right proportion that works best for you. If things seem like they’re getting out of whack, it may be time to change the mix. 

        2. In my opinion, a cell phone does not REALLY count as human interaction. It is somewhere in between REAL interaction and digital communication.

        3.  @Peg Fitzpatrick  It’s kind of in between. While I have lots of online and phone only relationships, the best ones are the ones with people I’ve met.
           
          I guess the phone is the next best thing if we are geographically challenged.

  10. I’ve been using email officially since 1988, and much earlier if you count the early days of BBSing. I honestly don’t see any problem with it. No matter how many times some company tries to reinvent this wheel they fall short. Look at Facebook’s effort that fell on it’s proverbial face. I’m sorry but email is still the fastest business communication available and your tips only drive that point. You express the very reasons that no one else has come up with a better solution.

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