We live and work in an age where communication can happen in an instant. Emails circumnavigate the globe in a couple of seconds, text messages ding on our phones as soon as they’re sent and usually expect an immediate response, and our cell phones can be called no matter where we are or what time of day it is. While this hyper connectivity does have the potential to streamline how we interact and do business and make our lives easier, I am finding effective communication to be more and more difficult. From what I’ve observed, people are simply overwhelmed by the volume of input they are receiving. This results in their inability to respond to requests in a timely fashion or, if they do respond, it is often incomplete, misses the point, or is unclear because of a misunderstanding of the original request (likely due to the fact that they didn’t think they had the time to listen to the entire voicemail or read the whole email).
The Email Charter
I got an email this morning from a colleague with this link www.emailcharter.org that I found quite pertinent to this post. I encourage you go to that site to learn about its origins and its backgrounds. You can find the Email Charter at the end of this post.
These folks have put together “10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral”(the spiral being how much of our work lives are consumed by email). The only one I take partial exception to is #2 which states:
Short or Slow is not Rude
Let's mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we're all facing, it's OK if replies take a while coming and if they don't give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don't take it personally. We just want our lives back!
The partial exception I take is to the detailed response part. I, personally, try not to ask questions to which I don’t want answers. If I ask it, please answer it. If my question was poorly formed, I apologize for being imperfect but rather than ignore it, give me a call and we’ll sort it out. Otherwise, I will be trying to follow the Charter and I hope you do too!
One quick note on text messages…
I use them, my colleagues use them and my clients use them. I think they offer a good tool to convey a quick thought or ask a quick question and they are certainly less intrusive than a phone call can be. Text messages, are, however, NOT meant to be emails. If you have a question or a comment that is longer than, say, 7 words and you need an answer fairly quickly, call me. Remember that text messages offer even less context and less of an opportunity to express the correct tone than email. So, save text messages for very short questions that require very short answers. And, since many of us use our personal cell phones for work, send text messages only during normal work hours. Finally, check out Lifehacker’s tips for taming the email flow, and getting to “inbox zero.”
The Email Charter: http://www.emailcharter.org/