Email has been a great tool, revolutionary even, but times have changed and so have our expectations for modern communication and collaboration. After considering a wide market of new options to traditional email dependence, does good ol’ email measure up anymore? Is email the right tool for collaboration? Is it the best? At the very least, the leaner and more efficient our inbox, the more productive your team can be. So read on and discover new ways to cut down on the pile.
Here are the 4 email obstacles that are keeping you from getting things done:
1. The way email behaves. Sometimes the message and attachment are separate, or put another way, the context is separated from the content. This means that plenty of time is spent mapping out which comment matches which item on the attachment. Plenty can be lost in translation when you are trying to match information in the message with the content of those pesky PDF’s, images, and all those other attachments. This is slowing you down.
2. When communicating with groups, the back and forth of group threads is difficult to track. Also, you’re permanently involved in the conversation regardless of relevance. Long after you’ve metaphorically left the conversation, you still receive notifications of every exchange. By keeping people in the loop who don’t need to be there, that’s another layer of distraction. It’s the virtual equivalent of being sucked into the pointless meeting to nowhere. Is this really a benefit?
3. Also lost in that exchange is the constant upload and download of attachments, keeping track of them all is tedious. Historically, it creates a dependency on systems like Exchange and Outlook for organization. These systems add their own complexities, costs, and sloth.
4. The social niceties prevent people from saying what needs to be said and often distract from the work. I’ve read countless articles about email etiquette and have to ask, “at what point do you bring your team, client, or customer to a place where you work together, building whatever it is, as efficiently as possible? In many an email discussion I’ve noticed psychological behavior equivalent of that found in committees. The shift in focus away from the business and on the egos and feelings ensures nothing gets done.
Imagine two teams of 3 individuals per team, a blue team and a red team. The members of the blue team are standing in the same room handwriting formal letters to one another, discussing how to build a rocking chair. In each exchange they write things like “Dear sir, how are you? I’m really excited about this project. Included in this letter is a proposal to…” It goes on and on, back and forth, with emphasis on ensuring there are personal tidbits that inspire each message to get read and responded to. Meanwhile, the red team is talking directly to one another, grabbing tools and getting started. Who finishes first? The red team of course. I’m not saying etiquette is a waste, but I am calling attention to better forms of communication and collaboration for getting things done.
The email productivity discussion to date has been focused on how to get more buy-in, be more considerate, build rapport, and is centered on answering the question “What tools are most efficient to enhance the email habit?” Very few people challenge the premise altogether by asking “Is email the best, most efficient communication or collaboration tool for the job?”
Many would argue that email is what there is; that this simply is the way things are, but it’s not true. At least, not anymore. We live in an age where we can get granular and collaborate on the attached item itself, in real time or our own time. And compared to email, the innovative tools and methods we use to collaborate blow it out of the water, saving organizations boatloads of time effort and energy.
So I’m going to say it; email is slower and more expensive than newer sportier models. I know that may sound crazy, but in terms of the time it takes to comprehend information, connect the dots and convey ideas, it’s slower than other options out there. I don’t have time for that. Neither do you. So where’s the eject button? Beam me up. Mr. Wizard, get me the hell out of here!
The good news is that the answers are out there. The tools, processes and methods are out there. The bad news? Your competitors are already using them. Below are 5 tools that I encourage you investigate and try.
5 Tools that will keep the Inbox lean and you on top!
- Slack allows for real time collaboration with integrations for Google Docs and Dropbox.
- Google Docs allows real-time collaboration in documents themselves: so no need for the back and forth.
- Dropbox syncs files and provides access on just about any device. This also provides a backup system and keeps files available even when you’re offline.
- Trello offers visual project management and workflow design.
- Asana offers a robust project management system that’s less visual but allows you to create and implement templates for repeated processes.
These apps save time and increase mobility. More importantly, they scale for teams of any size. They offer speed and responsiveness to pass on to your customers or pass up the competition. They may seem like novel, cutting edge innovations for top tier firms and big companies, but they most certainly are not. These aren’t optional anymore. Lean companies are using them everyday. If you want to move at the speed of a global, information economy, you’d better learn to get lean and keep up.
Are you tired of email? Tell us in the comments.