While attending a meeting last week, my wife was surprised to learn that many of those gathered didn’t like email and attempted to avoid using it. The group was discussing how to follow up the meeting when about one-third expressed their disdain for email. For my wife, who has used email for three decades, it was enlightening. She never knew how many people not only preferred other methods of communication but also disliked email. So, is email outdated?
Email Has Been Around a Long Time
“In 1971 Ray Tomlinson, a computer engineer working for Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, Massachusetts, developed a system for sending messages between computers that used the @ symbol to identify addresses. He now can't remember the first message he sent, or the exact date he sent it.” — The Guardian
Email was developed more than 40 years ago. Think about that. What technology, from 40 years ago, do we continue to use to today? The list is short. Is email past its time?
Why More and More Folks are Sick and Tired of Email
Too Much Spam
An unscientific perusal of my work email informed me that more than 75 percent of the emails I receive are spam. “Hi Randy, Is this a good time to talk to you about how our company, Obnoxious Marketing, can help your business? We think we have something special for you even though you haven’t replied to our previous 37 emails!”
Way Too Many Unneeded Messages
I don’t need to know every coworker’s schedule. If you’re away from the office, set your email to out of office and when I try to contact you I’ll get the message, and if I really, really, really need you I’ll call or text.
Ping Ping Ping
I’ve turned off most notifications and not only email. I don’t want to be interrupted, lose focus, and jump to some new urgent task just because I received an email. I want to finish what I’m working on, don’t you?
It’s not a Storage Vault
At one time I used email like a giant folder. It wasn’t very efficient. Today I follow inbox zero protocols and either delete, respond, or save messages in folders. If your inbox is blown up and you think there’s no way you can get to zero. I’m here to tell you, yes you can.
My email inbox was over 1,000. Every morning it haunted me. I was controlled by the next ping—jumping from task to email and back to the task. If this sounds familiar then you should read this book, The Battle for Your Email Inbox. In the book, Mr. Slaughter explains what email is, how to use it, and why you haven't been using it as effectively as you could. Since following Mr. Slaughter’s advice, my inbox ends each day at zero.
Misuse and Confusion
Email isn’t the best delivery method for long complicated messages with multiple bullet points. If you think I’m wrong, try this experiment. Send a friend or coworker an email with three separate points. We’ve become so used to scanning written communications such as articles, blog posts, and emails that many people don’t read past the subject line. Try it. And part of the problem is our ever shortening attention span. You now have a shorter attention span than goldfish. The score is goldfish nine seconds, people eight.
Another problem is people read too much into an email adding inflection, tone, and intent, which may change the message to something the sender never meant.
Is Email Outdated?
It’s not enough to craft a perfect message; you have to know how to share it as well. You have to understand your message and know your audience. To indiscriminately use email as your primary, if not only, business message delivery system is a mistake. Because email wasn’t intended for every type of message and not everyone appreciates an email.
Is email outdated? Not yet, but a time isn’t far off when email will be a thing of the past. In the meantime use email to your best advantage. Don’t overuse, abuse, and misuse email. Before you hit send, ask yourself is email the best method to share this message?
Randy Clark is the Director of Communications at TKO Graphix, where he blogs for TKO Graphix Brandwire. Randy is passionate about social media, leadership development, and flower gardening. He’s the proud father of two educators; he has four amazing grandchildren, and a wife who dedicates her time to helping others. Randy is the author of How to Stay Ahead of Your Business Blog Forever and The New Manager’s Workbook: A Crash Course in Effective Management.