Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Email all the time

[Ed. - While this conversation is fictitious, the numbers in it are not. But you know what? I bet your inbox is even messier than mine. I would love to hear any solutions anyone has.]

She asked, "Why wasn't this project done on time?"

I said, "I dunno. I didn't realize we even had a presentation scheduled."

"But I sent you the date in an email last week."

"I'm sorry, I probably missed it."

"You don't read my emails?"

"I try to. But yesterday alone, I got 187 work emails and 96 personal ones. If I spent even two minutes with each one, that'd add up to almost 10 hours a day reading email. And that doesn't include opening any attachments, clicking any links, or writing any responses. I can't devote that much time to reading email."

"So you don't check your email?"

"Of course I do. I spend more than three hours a day on it. I start by deleting the 60 or 70 that appear to be ads. Then I scroll through looking for meeting requests and anything relating to whatever major projects are already on my radar. The remaining 150 get skimmed or ignored."

"So when we need to talk to you, what should we do?"

"I don't know. I worry about it all the time. Any form of communication only works to the extent it captures attention. Face-to-face works best, but can you imagine 187 face-to-face meetings a day? Ditto for calls, texts, and threaded comments on project management systems. Any of them would cease to work the moment the larger team found out about them."

"So what's the solution?"

"The only solves I see are not communication-based. The first is to reduce the noise by accepting only larger projects. The second is to hire a bigger staff and field dedicated, autonomous teams."

"But all over America, clients are cutting budgets and agencies are trimming headcount."

I said, "Yeah, I know." And then we sat in silence for a time, contemplating careers as lumberjacks. 

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