Just how fast is email? Not that fast, really.
Here is a little secret…
“Email has become the new snail mail.”
Email used to be fast. Very fast, in fact.
Not anymore. Now it is slow.
Why is this? How did email become relegated to a second rate communication tool?
1. More Immediate Methods
The main reason that email has taken a backseat, is that there are now so many more communication options. And some of the newer methods are really fast. Things like text messages, IM, Twitter, Facebook updates and chat. Email has been replaced with even more immediate intrusions into our life. Why send an email when I can send a message that will pop-up on my friends cell phone or computer screen?
2. Can’t Expect Immediate Answers
Once upon a time, when email was still magical, people would sit in front of their computers just waiting for emails to arrive. But, somewhere along the
line, they realized they couldn’t get their job done while waiting and they stopped immediately answering emails. So, you cannot expect quick answers anymore. Some people only check their email only 1-2 times a day.
Ever see someone in passing and they ask, “Did you get that email I sent you?”
“When did you send it?”
“Oh, like 4 minutes ago.” Really?
3. Email is Good at Slow
Another reason email has become slow, is because that is one of its strengths!
People have figured out that email is best for non-synchronous communications… when people are not working at the same time. Email is powerful for time shifting. One of email’s strengths is allowing others to respond when they are available. Email should be leveraged for this type of communication. For example, when you need input on a new document, but you don’t need it now. Or you are working with someone in a different time zone or work shift.
4. Email is Not For Conversation
Here is an email secret: It is really bad for conversations. It is good for tasks and pushing documents, but horrible for conversing. Why? Because it is hard to tell emotion and tone in an email. What was intended as a simple message, turns into an all out flame-war because it was misinterpreted. And even when this does not happen, it is difficult to go back-and-forth via email. Ever have a 50 message email thread before a simple answer is reached? If you need to converse, reach out and touch someone.
5. Email is a Black Hole of Time Wasting
Ironically, email was once thought to be a savior of time management. People thought it would improve productivity and reduce workloads. It didn’t exactly turn out that way. In fact, many companies now cite email as the #1 time waster in the workplace. The truth is that most people cannot keep up with their incoming email. You regularly hear of people with thousands of messages in their inbox. People declaring “email bankruptcy” and starting over.
Use Email for Its Strengths
Email is good for many tasks. Make sure you use it for ones that make sense, like calendaring, document review, and group announcements.
Don’t let yourself get stuck in the quagmire of ping-pong emails, immediate requests, and non-answered inquiries.
Use more immediate tools when you need a quick answer. For example, don’t schedule a meeting via email for 1 hour in the future. Get on the phone if something is that urgent.
And better yet, if you need to really communicate with someone, reach out and touch them in person.
What do you use for immediate communication? Do you think that email has become slow?