The Love – Hate Relationship with Email

Do you have a love – hate relationship with email?

I was on vacation last week in the Caribbean and turned off data roaming on my iPhone for two reasons.  The first is that I’m cheap and didn’t want to pay for data charges when I was supposed to be enjoying my vacation and not working, and the second was that I wanted to control my impulse of staying on top of my emails.  I find that when I’m not in the office I am constantly checking my phone for new email messages – it’s almost a nervous twitch response and I figured that if I’m supposed to be relaxing and enjoying myself then I’d need to turn off the stimulus to that twitch – my data feed.  It of course didn’t stop me from connecting to any WiFi hot spot I could find, but fortunately there was no WiFi on the beach or on the hikes we took.

I have read that to improve productivity in the office that Mail should be opened and dealt with first thing in the morning, than shut off until lunch,  when you can turn it on and follow up on open messages.  Once complete, it’s shut off again until later in the day, say 3:00, then turned on, followed up and shut down until the end of the day like 5:00 or 6:00.

I have tried this routine, only to feel like I was missing something, or that if a client or prospect needed me, or had a question that I was doing a disservice to them by making them wait a couple of hours before I would turn on my email and respond accordingly.  Is it crazy to think that a client, prospect, or associate couldn’t wait 3 hours for a response?  Have we hyper accelerated our world to such a degree that I risk losing a client over a 3 hour “delay” – is it even fair to call it a delay?

What do you do – when you’re in the office and out of the office?  How do you handle the pressure of so many emails each day and what do you consider a timely response?

I’m my own worse enemy at times when it comes to email.  While I’ll complain about how many emails I get, I also send out a lot of emails every day which may be causing angst to the receivers stuck in the same cycle as I’m in.  So, lately I have tried to pick up the phone instead – especially if the subject matter is more complex than an email can cover.  Phone calls are becoming a lost art it seems!  Nothing will replace the inflection of a voice, tonality, and expressing that a phone call can achieve.  In fact, I’ve encouraged my staff to stop before writing out an email, and consider calling instead.  A phone call may take a little longer in some circumstances, but how many times do you have email “conversations” that go back and forth (where there are 5 other people copied on the email) that span over several days?  In retrospect I often find that one phone call with a follow up email (for documentation purposes) gets the job done.  And, at the end of the day, doesn’t a phone call actually help build greater personal relationships with the people you work with?  I think so.  Again, it goes back to tonality, expression and inflection.

I have a friend in the business who is very good about picking up the phone to call with updates on cases we’re working on together – her patience and caring tone is clearly evident in the calls and I so appreciate her wisdom that would probably be impossible to impart in an email.

I don’t want to sound like I’m beating up on emails or digital content – after all that’s how I’m communicating with you right now!  But, I do think that too many of us rely on emails as a form of communication that often isn’t appropriate or as effective as a phone call.

Last comment – I have to say that too few of us proof read, or even re-read emails, which I find entirely frustrating!  If you’re going to take the time to type out an email communication, please make sure your point is well communicated, grammar is correct, and punctuation is used.  Email is not texting – especially in business communications!

Okay, that’s my rant of the day!  Please leave me your comments or feedback – I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about when it comes to email overload!

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