life without email

Posted by on Mar 13, 2011

this post is being mirrored at my other blog: thisisjohnny’s posterous


monday morning was a morning like all the rest, for a little while at least. i woke up at my normal time—6:40a—ate reese’s puffs for breakfast, and headed out the door to the office. (fear not; i did get showered, clothed, and brushed my teeth in between.) when i arrived at my desk and opened the screen on my laptop, that familiar “boop” from the internal speaker of my firm-issued lenovo thinkpad rang true just as it has every morning since 2009, and i quickly pulled up microsoft outlook to check my email.

as i scanned my inbox for unread items, i had an alarming feeling overwhelm me: “there’s not a single thing in here that i want to read.” that’s not to say that i don’t like my job (in fact, my current tasking is probably as rewarding as my current role has ever been and i’ve learned a great deal from it) but the emails clogging up my 675 megabytes of exchange server space really didn’t need to be there. i pondered for a moment: how much of this is my own fault? how many of my emails are other people looking at right now thinking the same thing: ‘this is worthless!’ ? so right then and there i decided my goal for the week:

don’t send a single email.

one of my friends, astonished, asked, “…are you off [from work] all week?” nope. i just wanted to live more intelligently, so–boom–i cured it with my brain. shortly after, my brother sends me an email about going to a phillies game in april and i promptly reply on my iphone. doh! i convince myself that was unfair, i mean… i just started this thing, so i pull a kramer, “alright. starting.. now!” and the rest of monday goes off without a hitch. one day in, this isn’t bad! i was able to coordinate what i had to do in work with some simple, more engaging, phone calls and face-to-face micro-meetings. any and all other communication happens via text message, yammer, twitter, facebook, and online forums.

tuesday comes along with its own challenges (namely the fact that it isn’t friday yet). now people are asking me for tangible things! ‘that file’ and ‘that sql statement’. woof! even still, with people asking for powerpoint presentations and txt files, i’m able to use our corporate enterprise 2.0 system—based on microsoft sharepoint—to upload and store files on our team site and verbally tell folks, or drop an instant message, about where to go in order to get to it. four phone calls, two uploads, a handful of face-to-face conversations, and a circumvention of the rule by asking a coworker to email one particular file for me instead (hey, i still didn’t send it.. delegation of duties ftw!) and i’m through my second day of the week. confidence grows. i can do this.

on wednesday, this article about reply-all storms from the wall street journal crosses my yammer feed (thanks, nathan!). i’m convinced now more than ever that what i’m doing isn’t just good for me, but good for the whole company. i also convince myself that being able to fly is probably the one superpower i’d really like to have if i could only have just the one. i spend the vast majority of my time at client site for the rest of the week where email isn’t really available to me in any normal capacity. the vast majority of my work continues to use shared network services, face-to-face, and telephone calls. my personal communications are strictly through facebook, micro-blogging, lunch with a friend and colleague at taco bell, text messaging, and xbox live.

and here, as i type this on sunday evening, i have yet to send a single email since the one i sent to my brother on monday morning. so to the question, “what’s it like to live life without email?” let me just answer with one word:

awesome.

in sum…

pros: it’s far more engaging to work with actual people and not an inbox; not having to worry about “how is this going to come across?” or “does this make sense?”; it actually takes less time to call someone than to email them; using shared resources and e2.0 platforms (a) keeps version control, (b) lets everyone connect, not just those folks on the to: line, (c) keeps everything organized.

cons: some information doesn’t need to be persistent but for a while. using a wiki or other 2.0 tool is overkill, and a phone call or face-to-face meetup doesn’t provide the kind of fall-back reference needed; i miss signing my emails “- dino”.

overall: i’m not saying that email is completely worthless, but it’s mostly worthless. :D there’s not much value you get from email that you can’t get from any other means. i won’t say that i’ll never send another email again, but i’m certainly going to keep moving forward with this new perspective on the ageless tool of the digital age: less is more. why don’t you join me? do what i did… just try it out for a week.

1 Comment

  1. Gianpaolo
    2011-03-14

    I have forced myself to write no more than 3 sentence replies and it has changed my outlook on email (no pun intended). The next skill we need to teach our kids is how to filter.

    Reply

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