Unfolding plans 176 – Poor old email

There are eighteen ways to be more positive at work, at least that what the infographic says from CMD, a British manufacturer of office ergonomics products.  A colleague of mine sent me it by twitter.   Now I’m used to there being seven ways to something or ten rules to get what you want but eighteen is a new one on me.  Perhaps there are more and more ways needed to do something.

Most of them made sense to me, such as pacing yourself, getting on with the boring bits of your job and staying healthy.  One of them was to stay positive which I thought was stretching it a bit. Be more positive at work by staying positive sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It was a circular argument.

There were two however which I didn’t agree with.  The first was to arrive early.  That just doesn’t make sense.  If arriving early makes you positive then the earlier you arrive the more positive you are going to be.  That can’t be right and it is far better to arrive at an appropriate time or to arrive on time rather than early.

The one that I got really hung up on though was good old email.  The advice was to avoid checking email first thing and instead to focus on tasks in hand and periodically check your emails through the day.  Why does email get picked on so?  It gets such a bad rap.  What is different between email and any other form of communication?  Why should we ignore that form in preference to others?  Perhaps it is because we can.

Can you imagine if we were advised to stay positive at work by ignoring customers?  Avoid your customers first thing and instead focus on tasks in hand and periodically check your customers through the day.

Some emails are from customers.  Some aren’t but some are. Some emails are very important. Some aren’t but some are.  Choosing to ignore them and do something else first may get you in a lot of trouble.  Flicking through them first thing to check if there is anything earth shattering may save your bacon There may be something about to kick off.  There may be a huge opportunity to take up.

The problem with email isn’t necessarily in its reading but rather in its action.  I get lots of email, sometimes as much as two hindered a day.  Much of it is rubbish, a lot of it can be actioned straight away and some of it requires more measured action.  That is how I deal with it.  I’ve set up rules to make sure that mass mail and copied stuff goes somewhere where I can look at it later.  Like a racing whippet I look at my mail little and often.

What isn’t need gets deleted straight away.  That which needs a quick response gest done as soon as I can with a simple yes or no.  In this way it is away from my attention.  Anything that needs more attention I leave until I have the time to respond.  Sometimes I write back straight away to say that I’ll come back to them later.

Email is not the problem; it is the way that you deal with it that matters.  Stop blaming it and get a system.

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