How to get your head out of your in-box
Louis Richardson 120000HRWE email@example.com | | Tags:  connections email social-software collaboration | 1 Comments | 2,901 Visits
As a Social Business Evangelist, I speak to a number of audiences and one topic that probably gets the most responses is my mention of how going social has enabled me to empty my inbox each day. I've asked many audiences what they “feel” when I mention the word “email”. Most responses are of the nature of “overwhelmed”, “burdened”, sighs of despair and occasionally expletives not appropriate for print. So how does social software help alleviate our email burden?
My first awareness that it was even possible, was several years ago. I found a YouTube video "Inbox Zero" with Merlin Mann. It was a great start for processing my email. But it was only one part of the equation. It takes care of the processing of the email that arrives, but what about changing the amount of email you need to process...and I'm not talking about using just filtering. Social software has assisted in changing the amount of email as well as the place where the conversation occurs. So, first, start with Merlin's “inbox Zero” concept, then...
consider what generates email.
After speaking at a conference recently, I received an email by someone in attendance that asked for details on my comments regarding keeping my inbox empty. This email was a question. One like many that you and I receive on a daily basis. When we see these, we know we need to respond. This is where the social behavior kicks in. In which way should you answer?
Is this a question that is likely to be asked by others? Or is this a question that is probably a “one off” or just between a few select people for a short period of time. Let's say you get an email asking “What are you doing tomorrow?” Then it might be best to reply in email (or better yet best asked and answered with instant messaging). However, if the question could reach further, for instance, “What is the sales plan for Q2?”, then you should consider “going social”. Instead of responding in an email, put your answer out in your social network. If it's something like this sales plan, maybe it's a document in your Connections Files. If it's a narrative (like this one), then a blog might be appropriate. Then you simply send the link to the person with the question. That's not so hard....but it's not where the magic happens. The next person that asks the same question, they get the link. Now fast forward two weeks. You go to the file you posted and you find that 100 people have downloaded the sales plan and several have commented. That's 98 emails you didn't get. 98 emails you didn't have to “inbox zero”. They never got to your inbox. Viola...now you see them, now you don't.
I've seen email threads that should have been called spools. Someone asks you to do something. It's going to involve a number of people. You add their names and respond. They individually respond and add others as they see necessary. If this goes like most, soon you have an email snowball that has engulfed anyone close enough to get pulled into it's gravitation field. Stop the insanity...go social.
You get an email asking you to do something that will involve others or multiple steps, use Connections Activities. This can be as simple as dragging the email into your Notes sidebar onto the Activities widget. This will create a social activity. Once done, you can add tasks and items to the activity. You can assign people and add content. Your actions will generate short email alerts to those involved, linking them to the activity, where the conversation takes place. The emails are merely announcements with links. The real conversation is done outside the inbox. Now if anyone joins late, they aren't relegated to pouring through an email thread to try to discern relevant information. Instead, they find themselves in a social activity that is structured such that the information is easily found and acted upon.
Think about it. How many times have you been asked for information that you know you've answered already and you go searching about through your email inbox and archive to locate the email response you authored so you can cut/paste it to the new requester? What about those in your organization who leave and their email inbox has become the repository of their knowledge? It's most likely lost to the remainder of the organization. Instead, go social, put your conversation and your knowledge in your social network where you and other can easily find and reuse it.
While this isn't directly related to keeping
your inbox empty, it is a benefit of taking your conversations outside of
email. Think about a time when you were on the fringe of a larger conv
Take this blog posting itself. I could have just answered the email. Instead I've posted this blog. Not only that, but I've posted it where others will be able to also find my answer. And most importantly, I've posted it in a social context of this community where I hope others will add their perspective and comments...both in support and in rebuttal if necessary.
Lastly, I have to pay tribute to my IBM friend, Luis “I can live without email” Suarez Rodriguez, who has forgotten more about this topic than I'll ever know. But I waited to the end of this posting to do so, otherwise you would have just jumped over to Luis' postings without reading mine.
Enjoy yourself. Be a culture change catalyst.
Louis serves as a Social Business Evangelist for IBM and can be reached at Ric