Lets start with Step 1: Stop replying to email. This step would really be more accurately described as Mindful Processing of Email but that doesn't sound nearly as provocative and attention-grabbing, and wouldn't make nearly so many people's heads explode, which wouldn't be nearly as much fun.
So listen: this is what we are really doing.
Think of this as stopping the reflexive knee-jerk reaction of working in your inbox, simply reading and replying. We've all become very well trained by our inboxes: receive an email, send an email. Read your incoming email and then...
Stop. Think. Ask yourself a few questions along these lines:
- is someone else likely to ask the same question?
- would this exchange, or the bit of knowledge/information shared, be of use to anyone else?
- what is the best way to share this information or conduct this transaction?
- is there a smarter, more efficient, more collaborative, open and transparent way to work?
Change begins with us (and you!)
Here are some wild and crazy ideas on how you can work effectively and openly and without being chained to your inbox:
Use the content repository or content management system of your choice as long as it's NOT YOUR MACHINE. Don't become the bottleneck, or the single point of failure. Put your stuff where people can find it and get it. When people email and ask you for that information, give them a link to the information where you've posted it.
Use wiki pages for knowledge capture and on-demand access. One example, instead of keeping your project status or metrics in a spreadsheet on your machine, think open and transparent and provide that data on a wiki page. if your manager expects a weekly status report, put it there.
Use discussion forums for collaboration, idea sharing and brainstorming.....or collecting a quick temperature check from your community. Don't conduct a lengthy email exchange with one or more people about it. Be the first to suggest there is a better way to conduct this conversation.
Use the community blog for news, announcements, and community-wide communications. Why blog? To take advantage of all the technology that allows us to share knowledge more widely ... tags, RSS feeds, aggregators, search.... the list goes on. Rather than sending an 800mg email that immediately plunges 20% of your unsuspecting audience into "mail jail", try blogging your news. Oh, the 80% who aren't in mail jail? I posit that 40% will not read it anyway, either deliberately or by accident when it scrolls "below the fold" amidst a barrage of other people sending news, asking questions, and, worst of all, sharing files.
Besides, I bet a couple of weeks from now, someone's going to ask you for the information again anyway.
Speaking of sharing files.... There are better ways. Instead of mailing a slide deck to 10 people for review and comments, use Connections and if you MUST send an email, send a link to where you have posted the file (or the wiki page from which you are working) so that it can benefit the greatest number of people, who can then bookmark it / subscribe to it / grab the RSS feed, or otherwise self-serve when they need the information. Which means the doc owner doesn't need to send the updated file out to a cast of thousands either.
Oh, it all just makes so much SENSE.
So no, we're not giving up email entirely, and there will be times that we will (gasp!) send an email. We're just going to be mindful in our work and aim to get the maximum value from each interaction.
So, stop and think.