Home :: Articles & News :: December, 2005 :: Email is Bad


Why E-mail is Bad for You

Imagine your business day without e-mail. Kind of scary, huh? So why do I say it is bad for you? Well, e-mail is a wonderful tool and it solves many problems, but it is bad for you and your organization when you start using it for everything.

For some lucky individuals, it is not a problem at all. They don't get very many mail messages, and most of it is routine notices. But for most of us, our daily dose of e-mail is unrelenting. We have all had days where we are sure they are going to change the famous quote to read "Nothing is certain in life except death, taxes, and an unrelenting daily barrage of e-mail."

But the sheer volume of e-mail is not the biggest problem. The real problem is that we have to actually DO something with all this e-mail. So we read it, we answer it (or not) and we file it or delete it. Or maybe it's something we are going to do tomorrow, so we keep it in our Inbox until we act on it. So after a few years of this, we have a mail that is not just a mail file any more. Yes, its still our Inbox. But now it's also an enormous file cabinet overflowing with related and unrelated items. And it's a to do list that may or may not be up-to-date. And it's a reminder mechanism for other systems. And it's a... well, I'll just stop here.

Some of you may have heard this quote before -- "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." - Baruch's Law

So, it's not a huge leap to -- "When all you have is a mail file, everything becomes an e-mail."

The hammer and the nail are a wonderful combination and solve lots of problems, like "How am I going to hang this picture?" But, they are not designed to handle every problem, like "How am I going to attach this wheel to my bike?"

The same is true for e-mail. E-mail is a wonderful communication tool and it solves lots of communication problems. But it was never meant to be your one and only filing system. It was never meant to be your to do list, or your calendar, or whatever other thing it is doing for you.

What do you do when all you have is an e-mail file? This article, and future articles, will focus on how you can take advantage of the Lotus Notes system already in place at your organization. There are several simple, no cost things you and your organization can do to use more than just a hammer to solve your day-to-day information and communication needs.

Let's first tackle that "Inbox as my To Do list" problem. Heck, I used to do this myself. But now, when I get an e-mail that I cannot tackle right away, I click on the "Copy into new To Do" Action Button at the top of the e-mail message. This copies the entire e-mail into a new To Do item in my Lotus Notes To Do list. Now that it is a To Do list item, I can manage it along with all my other To Do list items. I can also take advantage of all the great To Do item features, like Due by and Start by dates, Priority and, even better, assign to others! Now that I am managing the mail message as a To Do item, I can delete (or file if I need to keep it) the original mail message. Yes!! One less thing in my Inbox, all in less than a minute.

In January we will look at alternatives to forwarding the same e-mail to ten people whenever you want to share something.

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