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E-mail is the biggest social network

April 26, 2011

A few years ago I was working on a client and the work came to an end. In my mailbox (yes, a real place with magazines and letter and such), there was a letter for a co-worker thanking me for my hard work. I still have that letter. A hand-written letter in 2009.

Had it been an e-mail, it would have been tossed. Or e-tossed, I suppose.

Because, as much as e-mail is at the center of our lives, it’s not something we love. It’s something we need, e-mail has a huge adoption rate in corporations around the world.

But they are a failed social network, of sorts.

I have more than one e-mail address. Inside of each of those e-mail addresses is a contacts page filled with data about people. Depending on whether I’m using Outlook, gmail or Yahoo Mail, each tool tells me a little about the person I might e-mail. Outlook tells me if a colleague is at their desk. Yahoo tells me if they are online.  With gmail, I can phone them.

All of these are great tools, but they are getting more and more annoying. I get about 300 e-mails a day.

This can’t go on. There has to be a better way.

What do you do with e-mail? How many e-mail addresses do you have? Could you live/work without e-mail?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Rod Gotty permalink
    April 26, 2011 3:59 pm

    For most of my colleagues and myself, email is more than just a form of communication – it is also an audit trail of our professional activities – a sort of knowledge bank. I never delete emails and I often find myself searching them for information that I need.


  2. April 26, 2011 9:07 pm

    Matt, thanks for another thought provoking post.

    I have methodically moved my primary email account to gmail. It then retrieves the 6 to 12 pop accounts I monitor, thus only having one single sign on to deal with. I also use tagging/filtering/color coding extensively as well to help me move my emails into ‘folders’ so that I manage my time wisely. (i.e. if I’m cc’d, the email is tagged accordingly and I only review those emails weekly, I have time blocked on my calendar for this task) I wish I only had 300 emails a day to deal with.

    Another thing I do is decide each month to ‘unsubscribe’ to 10% of my email lists. If they are not adding value, or I find myself never opening them, they are candidates to be removed.

    What I have also done is to use WEB 2.0 services to avoid in-basket clutter. I prefer items be sent to my reader then my email client. This goes for blogs, news, tag searches, and anything that can be subscribed to. Same monthly 10% unsubscribe rule applies there.

    Another tip, I only open an email once. If it doesn’t require action, it’s either archived or deleted. If it requires action and I can’t give it the time it deserves, it becomes a to-do on my task list, or an event on my calendar. I try to spend as little time in email as possible and drive myself to value added items as much as possible.

    And no, I could not live without emails. My consulting practice is now completely designed around web services.

    Hope that helps.

    • April 28, 2011 9:13 am

      Thanks Tim. I plan to begin using your strategy of respond, archive or delete. I’m shooting for clean in boxes.

  3. June 30, 2011 10:56 am

    It’s a bit old but i want to add the following:
    I still have all my old emails that i wrote to my wife when she wasn’t my wife as .eml on my disk.

    So it’s nothing that get’s tossed away, at least not for me

  4. June 30, 2011 9:09 pm

    Thanks Nils, that’s a nice story. I’ve recently been able to turn voicemails into mp3s. I have VM’s from my daughter when she was 2. They will go with me always.

    Thanks for sharing.


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