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The eMail Glut

It's Not Them, It's Us


Who would have thought that e-mail would be associated with such unattractive terms as glut, burden, trivial, excessive, wasteful and unproductive? After all, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The promise was that this wonderfully intuitive method of communication would replace not just paper, but printers, envelopes, stamps, mail carriers and the mailroom itself. The ads shouted at us. "It's instant! It's free! It keeps you in touch!" They didn't tell us we'd be overwhelmed by the stuff.

The irony is that e-mail replaces a much better communication medium, the telephone. But with the advent of voice mail systems, people started hiding from callers. So e-mail slipped in to take the phone's place. And now everyone has discovered that it's not easy to hide from e-mail.

But let's recognize something. Like many of the ills that plague our society, from bad drivers to polluters, the problem isn't them, it's us. We think everyone else should clean up their act, but fail to recognize that we too contribute to the problem. When you send one e-mail and copy 20 people, you are actually bombarding the system with 21 transmissions. So stop sending out all those e-mails. Avoid using the cc function. Generally e-mail works best, and is responded to, when it's one-to-one, not one-to-many. And cut out the jokes, regular newsletters, updates, virus warnings and trivial announcements. If you don't like getting them, stop sending them. Your time is worth it.

Mark Ellwood is a productivity consultant dedicated to improving people and processes through consulting, training and facilitation. Reach him at mark@GetMoreDone.com or www.getmoredone.com.

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