Ever since starting work in the late 90’s I’ve always had an uncomfortable relationship with emails. I was brought up to construct well written letters that were intended to deliver the content required but to also translate a tone for the recipient.

As the use of emails and more lately shortened messenger services have come into play, we have all become a little bit lazier and work even quicker under the ever-increasing pressure of instant communication.

The devil must be at work here taking the majority of us down a slippery path, we create files to save them in, cc everyone to cover our arse, bcc when we think we are being clever, sometimes we reply to all without even thinking and whoops you are in receipt of everyone’s price lists or you’ve sent a buyer all your margins! 

If forces us to think less as its easy to click and send, it encourages mistakes and encourages us to remove ourselves from the real world. Get a video call, call them or god forbid have a face to face meeting.

It’s too easy to avoid a conversation. Do not hide behind the devil.

Here is my new not-quite-perfected email “rules of engagement:”

1. Use email only for official communications. This includes:

●      Budgeting

●      Contracts

●      Staffing, i.e. hiring, firing, merit increases

●      Strategic things that directly affect the bottom line

●      Official communication with a customer

●      Minutes & actions with external stakeholders

●      Sending/supplying information & data that a third party requires

2. Delete all your emails more than one year old, unless it fits into rule #1 (even then, it’s probably less important than you think).  

3. Use the right tool for the job.

●      Got a sensitive topic?  Pick up the phone!  Or better yet, meet that person face to face.

●      Collaborating on an idea in real-time?  Use Google Hangouts, Skype, Face Time, or GoTo Meeting.

●      Need to communicate with a project team?  Use our favourite or others available Basecamp, Pivotal Tracker, Slack, etc. Also, we tend to use different whatsapp group chats. 

●      Got to write something short for the world to see?  Use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, RSS, etc.

●      Got to write something long-form for the world to see?  Use a blog or an old-fashioned web site.

●      Editing a document with colleagues?  Use Google Drive (docs, spreadsheets, presentations) or Box.  There are lots of options in this space.

Email is a great tool when you want to send someone the equivalent of a memo, but for most of the work I do today, email is the wrong tool for the job.  Don’t let email steal your life!

 Rhys George

CEO Visionary Group