9 Rogue Rules to Fix Corporate Email

Email has gotten out of control.

Doubt it?

Your employees are spending up to half of their day on it.

What can we do to bring this productivity monster under control?

(Hint: We may have to go rogue on this one.)

Email Has Taken Over

Email is here to stay.

Despite our best efforts, it isn’t going anywhere.

Like the fax machine, we will still be using it in the year 2491.

I previously spelled out TMN’s 9 Laws of Work Email.

Today, I want to propose some radial ways to think differently about email.

After all, email has been superseded by new social tools and communications but it still seems to be stuck, well, in the 90s. (Not to say that there aren’t some positive email uses.)

So, how can we radically change corporate email to restore productivity to our workplace?

I have proposed 9 “rules” below to do just that. However, I want to preface them with the idea that they do not have to be hard and fast limits. Especially, if that helps us leave our comfort zones…

In fact, maybe emails should be flagged based on policy and reviewed similarly to expense report violations.

“Which costs a company more… a lunch expense overage or a rogue email that calls a meeting with 11 people?”

So, if we want to radically change email and how it works… what should we do?

9 Rogue Corporate Email Rules

Email is a sacred cow.

Some people love it. Especially those who abuse it.

However, here are some tough ideas on how to challenge email’s power in the workplace…

9 Rogue Rules to Fix Corporate Email

  1. Timed Deliveries – People need to stop thinking of email as instantaneous. We cannot expect our employees to sit at their desk waiting for emails to arrive and immediately act upon them. Let’s limit delivery of email. If email is the new snail mail, maybe it should only be delivered once a day at a preset time. This would reset people’s expectation that others are going to read their email within minutes.
  2. Limited Distribution – Set up corporate email accounts so that they can’t copy more than 3 people per message. Perhaps, vary this limit based upon position or seniority.
  3. AutoClose Email Clients – Corporate IT seems to want to “auto do” all kinds of other things to our machines. Why not auto-close email clients after a few minutes of inactivity? (They could even call it a security measure.) This would eliminate unneeded email alerts and interruptions.
  4. Limit Message Length – There is no need for a 3 page email. Just like Twitter, we need a strict character (or word) limit on our work emails. Maybe a 100 words per message.
  5. Mandatory Spell Check – The fact that you wrote an email on your phone 15 seconds before walking into your lunch date doesn’t mean that others should have to slog through a poorly written message. Make spelling and grammar checks mandatory before messages can be sent.
  6. No Signatures – We don’t need your contact information in every single email you send. Nor do we need to give out our contact info to every single person we email. Remove this functionality. If email messages are employees’ Rolodexes then it might be time for remedial organization training.
  7. Black Out Hours – Turn off email delivery during weekends, holidays, and off hours. Employees can write email during off time, but they get queued until after the black out time. See Rule #1.
  8. No Same Day Meeting Invites – Nothing is more disruptive that last-minute meeting invites. Companies should set their own minimum interval. One day notice? Perhaps, two or three.
  9. Limit the # of Emails – Simply put, limit the # of emails that an employee can send in a day. (I once got 200 emails from one person in a day.) This would stop the email pushers and those who shuffle emails instead of doing actual work. There would literally be a few people who wouldn’t know what to do with their day!

Rogue or Right On?

Some of these may seem extreme.

Are they too radical? Or are we just clinging to our comfort zones?

Some companies are eliminating email altogether.

You have to wonder why we spend so much time on it.

So, let’s close the email and get some work done.

Is email a time waster in your company? How would your fix it?

No time for time management? Check out my online course designed to jump start your productivity! Take it online on your time and pace. As well, get direct access to me for advice and questions. Get details or enroll now by clicking here!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • skooloflife

    Craig,

    So much of what’s in my inbox is noise and nonsense. I think in the corporate world it’s worse. I love this and I think this logic could be applied to more than just email.

  • skooloflife

    Craig,

    So much of what’s in my inbox is noise and nonsense. I think in the corporate world it’s worse. I love this and I think this logic could be applied to more than just email.

    • TMNinja

      @skooloflife Thx, Srini. Yes, too much of corporate email is noise.

      Like where you are going with your last thought. There are many other areas of life that we could probably simplify, as well. :)

  • TMNinja

    @skooloflife Srinivas, thanks! BTW, would love to have you do a guest article on TMN…

  • TMNinja

    @skooloflife Srinivas, thanks! BTW, would love to have you do a guest article on TMN…

    • skooloflife

      @TMNinja would love to. Let me think of something

  • http://www.daytimer.com/blog Jeff @ Day-Timer

    Right on! I talk often to groups about limiting your messages to the key points. Always spell out what you want from the recipient or you’ll end up in an ongoing volley of back and forth messages. The best way to reduce your inbox is to send out better message. Great post Craig.

  • http://www.daytimer.com/blog Jeff @ Day-Timer

    Right on! I talk often to groups about limiting your messages to the key points. Always spell out what you want from the recipient or you’ll end up in an ongoing volley of back and forth messages. The best way to reduce your inbox is to send out better message. Great post Craig.

    • TMNinja

      @Jeff @ Day-Timer Thanks, Jeff!

      Good to see you again in 2012. :)

  • skooloflife

    @TMNinja would love to. Let me think of something

  • ShanSteffen

    @sfinnovation Thanks for the RT! I totally appreciate it!

  • ShanSteffen

    @sfinnovation Thanks for the RT! I totally appreciate it!

  • ShanSteffen

    @sfinnovation Thanks for the RT! I totally appreciate it!

  • ShanSteffen

    @sfinnovation Thanks for the RT! I totally appreciate it!

  • ShannonKSteffen

    @sfinnovation Thanks for the RT! I totally appreciate it!

    • sfinnovation

      @shansteffen You’re welcome.

  • sfinnovation

    @shansteffen You’re welcome.

  • http://www.ergoorgo.com/ ergoorgo

    This a great list of ideas to try and curb the overblown inbox, pointless emails and overly long messages. I find short signatures useful (as they mean I never have to save contact information), but I could happily push for the rest of these points. I would also add that people should be better at learning to distinguish when to ‘to’ and when to ‘cc’ people; and that there be a standard template for subject lines (e.g. “Action to’s, by Fri X Jan – Project X: issue y – specific request).

    As a bonus entry – why not ban all internal email: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16055310

  • http://www.ergoorgo.com/ ergoorgo

    This a great list of ideas to try and curb the overblown inbox, pointless emails and overly long messages. I find short signatures useful (as they mean I never have to save contact information), but I could happily push for the rest of these points. I would also add that people should be better at learning to distinguish when to ‘to’ and when to ‘cc’ people; and that there be a standard template for subject lines (e.g. “Action to’s, by Fri X Jan – Project X: issue y – specific request).

    As a bonus entry – why not ban all internal email: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16055310

    • TMNinja

      @ergoorgo Good stuff!

      Ahh… I didn’t think of that. We can get rid of cc and especially bcc. :)

      • http://www.ergoorgo.com/ ergoorgo

        @TMNinja BCC is banned in my organisation and rightly so!

      • djblois

        @ergoorgo @TMNinja BCC should not be banned – it should be used as a prevention method for Reply to All but that is all it should be used for.

  • TMNinja

    @ergoorgo Good stuff!

    Ahh… I didn’t think of that. We can get rid of cc and especially bcc. :)

  • TMNinja

    @Jeff @ Day-Timer Thanks, Jeff!

    Good to see you again in 2012. :)

  • TMNinja

    @skooloflife Thx, Srini. Yes, too much of corporate email is noise.

    Like where you are going with your last thought. There are many other areas of life that we could probably simplify, as well. :)

  • http://www.ergoorgo.com/ ergoorgo

    @TMNinja BCC is banned in my organisation and rightly so!

  • djblois

    BCC is useful for one purpose (and it is not the purpose it was created for). If you need to send email to multiple people and you do not want them to be able to reply to all (only reply to you) then BCC works perfectly.

  • djblois

    BCC is useful for one purpose (and it is not the purpose it was created for). If you need to send email to multiple people and you do not want them to be able to reply to all (only reply to you) then BCC works perfectly.

  • djblois

    BCC is useful for one purpose (and it is not the purpose it was created for). If you need to send email to multiple people and you do not want them to be able to reply to all (only reply to you) then BCC works perfectly.

    • TMNinja

      @djblois Great point. :)

  • Pingback: Best Money Tips: 57 Avoidable Tax Mistakes | personal fincance

  • Pingback: Taking Time to Be Idle: Make Like a Child and Dream …

  • LauraMcMom

    I’m not sure all of these ideas would be practical for my firm (I’m a lawyer and clients generally need and expect quick responses), but I like the ideas. Like ergoorgo, though, I like the signature with contact information — often I get emails from someone for whom I have no need to save contact info permanently, but for whom I might need an address or phone number for a particular purpose — and I sure like having it right there in their email. Among other reasons, if I’m reading the email on my iPhone and need to speak to them, I can just call them from within the email by clicking on the phone number, without having to go look it up.

    • TMNinja

      @LauraMcMom Good thoughts.

      And yes, if you business communication with your clients in via email then your practices may be different. :)

  • http://johnmarkharris.net/ John Mark Harris

    BCC is CYA. When people need to know what you’ve said to someone, but that someone doesn’t like the idea of a third party. When they go to your boss “I wish someone would have told me…” Your boss can say “I thought I remembered seeing an email where John told you that…”