What I hate about email

Last week I was out of my office for two days. When I came back, my email “in basket” had grown to 246 new emails. Yes, you read correctly.

I find it so unproductive to go through that many emails. Too many of them are what I classify as junk or unnecessary.

You know what I mean:

  • You were copied on a previous email, and someone decided to “reply all” instead of “reply.” I try NEVER to reply all.
  • Someone replies to your email with an “OK” or “Thanks.” Really, was it necessary to send an email on that?
  • You somehow got added to a mailing list because you gave your email to a store at which you shopped (either in person or online). I think you should be able to give your email AND be able to opt out of any email newsletter lists. I no longer give my email when I shop.
  • You were BCC’d on an email in your company. Well, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. In my mind, BCC really stands for CYA (Cover your *ss). Why don’t they just call it that?

BCC probably frustrates me more than anything. There is nothing I can do about it, because I am not supposed to know it even existed. Instead of BCCing someone, I recommend that after you send your original email, then just forward a copy of the email to that person and indicate it is an “FYI.” That way, they can at least respond.

When I come into my office each day, I do not make answering emails a priority. Here is my strategy for NOT making email an obstacle to getting actual work done. You may find this helpful:

  • When I turn on my computer, the first thing I do is glance through those emails that arrived since I left work the previous day. Since many of the junk emails come at night, I delete most of them right away.
  • I do NOT answer all my emails right away. I decide which ones are truly urgent and answer those first. (I define a message as TRULY URGENT when the sender cannot proceed with their daily tasks without an answer from me.) Sometimes, if the sender is located in my office, I will just walk over to their desk and answer them. Personal interaction is a very important part of company culture.
  • I ignore the rest of my emails until I am taking a break, having lunch, or it is my time of day to go through emails.
  • My priority each day is working on my TO DO list. Every day I start with the top three projects I need to complete that day. When I finish one of them, I take a break to send or answer emails. That break is only 10 minutes max.
  • When I am going through my emails, I sort by sender, so I avoid having to read the back and forth emails caused by those “reply” and “reply alls.” I can read one and delete all the previous versions. I read the emails by the priority of the person who sent them to me.
  • Email newsletter lists: These are my lowest priority. Somehow I got subscribed to at least a dozen email newsletters. Over time, I have found that most of my trade e-letters are rehashing the same stories. So, I glance at the headlines of the ones which have the easiest format to read and (honestly) I delete the rest.
  • When the option is given (like at the bottom of many e-newsletters), I “opt out” immediately. It takes about 5 seconds and I am never bothered by their emails again.

Well, my break is over now, so I need to go back to my TO DO list!

Karen

2 thoughts on “What I hate about email

  1. In defense of BCC… it’s not always CYA, though it might be more so in an office. Among small businesses, the press, and such, it’s a way to send information to multiple people while protecting them from phishing – or people stealing their contact information. For example, if I’ve got a press release that I’m sending out to multiple other reporters and bloggers I know, I’d send it to myself and have everyone’s email in the “BCC” section. That way, if my colleagues forward the information (Yay!) my other colleagues aren’t in danger of having someone I don’t know grab their email and start sending them spam or unwanted releases.

    Using BCC in a CYA maneuver as you describe, to me sounds underhanded. If I need to have a client or editor or supervisor oversee some written dialogue, I put that in the CC so that the sender _knows_ that I’m not saying anything I feel is improper.

    Also, if you need to reply to a BCC, there’s no reason not to. Reply would just direct it to the sender, not the recipient.

    That said, I sympathize with the email plight. Almost all my business is conducted via email, and most of my clients are too far to visit with in-person. Email is the preferred contact method because it leaves a record of the discussion (for contract and authenticity purposes), and it can be relegated to specific points of “free time” in the day. Good luck!

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