Email overload – pick the right communications channel

Tuesday May 31st, 2011, 1:30 pm

One cause of email overload is being a slave to email at the expense of other communications media.  As Peter Drucker once said ‘the new information technology… Internet and e-mail… have practically eliminated the physical costs of communications.’  But is this at the expense of the quality of communications?
When was the last time you talked rather than emailed someone?  Email is just one of a glittering array of communications media which range from Facebook, text and instant messaging to old fashioned talking be it either face-to-face or through Skype.

Spectrum of communications media

After text and IM, email carries the least ammount of contextual information.  You have no idea whether I am crying or laughing.  Some would argue that you can add emotions with emoticons.  But these too can be misinterpreted and most business people regard them as unprofessional and sloppy.

A conversation is very often worth nine rounds of email ping-pong at the end of which the matter is probably still unresolved.  Indeed, using an alternative communications channel can be a very effective way of reducing email overload.

Some tasks for which an alternative to email would be more effective include: 

  • Performance related challenges, for example why did a supplier let you down, why did a team member not perform as expected.
  • Simple quick transient messages which need your immediate attention (if you are present) and which do not need to be recorded and have no value after five minutes eg visitor in reception, fire alarm being tested.
  • Scheduling a meeting with several people – far quicker using a proper meeting scheduler than by email ping-pong.

Why are we so locked into email?  Is it cultural, personality related (eg introverts find email easier than talking).  Is it generational (there evidence that Generation Y pefer social media to email)?

To check just how addicted you are to email use our Email Addiction benchmarking tool

This week’s tips on how to reduce email overload are focused on choosing an alternative to email to ensure that you convey the right message right first time. 

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your opinion on why you feel we are so addicted to email which drives up email overload and also when you have found an alternative to email more effective.

For more time saving tips and hints why not buy a copy of one of our books or let us run a Smart Email Management workshop for you and your colleagues.
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2 responses to “Email overload – pick the right communications channel”

  1. People are addicted to e-mail, because English people are followers…..Not leaders….!

    Mano a Mano….Facccia a Faccia..!
    (Hand to Hand…Face to Face).

    It is the only truthful and honest way to communicate.
    To many 'sad' people 'hide' behind this so called modern technology. It does'nt rule my life, l rule 'it's'.

  2. ozchrob says:

    It is not just email, all forms of digital communication are taking over our lives it seems. I have my personal email account, my business email account(s), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc which I spend my days checking.

    In fact it seems like most of my day is spent looking at these communication tools rather than actually taking a pro-active approach to completing tasks, as such email makes us feel like we are operating in a reactive rather than a proactive way. As such good email practice (reading an email only once if possible and resolving all issues before moving on to the next one) and a management tool for these mediums of communication is key.

    A positive is that we're are working on overcoming email overload at and hope that your readers will find our product of use.