We Are The Frog; Email Is The Boiling Water

It seems that people are starting to come to grips with how email is killing our productivity. It’s become a monster that creates anxiety and continually interrupts our day (and night). When first introduced it obviously changed everything, but like the frog in slowly boiling water, we didn’t notice how it changed.

In the very early days of email, there was the “understanding” that THIS TOOL SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR SELLING (and that using all-caps was super bad). The term SPAM was not yet invented, and there was a real naivety that the users were going to control the content they received. We know that didn’t happen (regardless of really good email filtering software).

Also, email was a tool that most people only got from their job. It was clear that it was to be used only for work. And only a few short years ago you could only get it when you were AT work. Everyone knew that after hours there was no expectation that you would respond. I recall when there were a “lucky” few who could “dial-in” to see their email. Today pretty much everyone has access all the time. Now the expectation is that when it is sent, not only should you respond, but we all expect you to see it instantly because of-course you have sync’d it to your phone. And we know you have your phone with you.

And, since email was essentially always in front of us, we began using it for sending out task assignments, FYI’s, delivering documents, checking up on status, and sending all “notifications” from other systems into it. The problem is email is pretty bad at tracking all of this. Add into this the chaining of responses, CCs, BCCs and we’ve ended up with the mess of today. Detangling this will require more than new tools and technologies; we need to establish rules, processes, and level set expectations. And then the toughest part – not going back to email when there is the slightest friction in our process.