As a daily blogger, it’s ironic that I complain about time I spend in front of the computer and on-line. And yet I do. I know though that I’m lucky enough to not be in the predicament of some friends who open their work email to be greeted with 50+ messages. My inbox is relatively small. Yet I still spend many hours each week opening, reading, and replying to email.
So when I noticed on the Q blog that there had been a recent conversation with TED conference curator Chris Anderson about a proposed Email Charter, I tuned in.
Anderson argues that email is terribly inefficient and stressful. The problem, he says, is that it takes less time to send an email than it does to respond to it – i.e. multiple recipients, added links, attachments, etc.
Following a popular on-line discussion about this problem, Anderson has created an email charter, as a way to tackle this “tragedy of the commons”.
His first rule: Respect Recipients’ Time. He’s advocating for clarity and brevity, although the point is not necessarily to always write shorter emails, but to write emails so that they can be responded to quickly.
My favourite rule is #5 - Slash Surplus cc’s. While acknowledging that cc’s can be useful and even efficient, they get used far too often. I think people often do it to cover their butts, to needlessly keep everyone in the loop. How did offices function before email? Did we have to inform our colleagues and managers of every decision, every conversation? Let’s keep our own records and save the cc’s for when it really counts.
Another great idea from the charter: use EOM and NNTR. EOM – end of message – is for brief messages that can be sent in the subject line followed by EOM, letting the recipient know they don’t have to open the email. NNTR – no need to reply – can hopefully shorten some needlessly long email chains.
Email has been around for about 30 years, and has been popular for about 20. Is it too late to change? Perhaps. But then again, technology is all about reinventing itself. Maybe it is time we reinvent how we use email.