July 25, 2011

What, No Email?

I was listening to a podcast recently when one of the podcasters mentioned a new approach to improving communication and productivity. It seems there are a few individuals, many of them tech savvy, who are deciding to take advantage of the latest technologies to reduce their reliance on the old standard, email. In fact, some of them are going email free. With the emphasis on “Inbox Zero” and other methods for managing the daily barrage of email, it was interesting to hear that some folks have decided they could improve their effectiveness and thus their productivity by eliminating one of the hardest tools to manage. With the tools now available, it’s possible to communicate with the right people when and how you want to without resorting to email at all. With my recent research into better ways to manage my own projects and tasks, this process of reducing my email usage is very intriguing.

I decided to explore the possibilities. Could someone really lessen their reliance on email?

I began by creating a list of topics we typically communicate via email.

Here are some topics usually communicated through email.

• Instructions on projects and tasks
• Directions to events and locations
• Greetings to new team members
• Follow up to requests
• Collaboration on projects and tasks
• Access to documents and files (through attachments)
• Access to pictures and videos (through attachments)
• Links to web-based information and articles
• Links to virtual conference calls and meetings

Not an exhaustive list but enough to think through the next step.

Next, I thought about the places we usually access email. A few years ago, we needed to be at a computer to work with our email. We also needed to be near a phone line to make phone calls. Now with smart phones and tablet computers, it’s possible to access the above information anytime and anywhere. I, for example, routinely carry both my smart phone and tablet computer all the time providing access to multiple methods of communication anywhere I go.

I then made a list of the alternative methods of communication in use today. With the advent of Web 2.0, our communications methods have evolved dramatically. This evolution is allowing us to push email to the background.

In no specific order, these products include:

Facebook and Google+
• Instant Messaging
• Text Messages
• Blogging

After reviewing my list of technologies, I matched them with the above topics. I found that communicating instructions, directions, greetings, and follow-up could easily be done via Twitter, Instant Messaging, and Text Messages. Collaboration could be done with SharePoint, Twitter, and Instant Messaging. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ could handle a variety of topics including daily communication, file sharing, pictures, videos, and links. Even in corporate America, tools such as SharePoint and Yammer, could provide the same communication possibilities. Finally, products such as Skype and GoToMeeting can be used to communicate via both voice and video. All in all, I could indeed use a multitude of new technologies to communicate with my world and not have to use email.

I did discover one reason I won’t be moving completely away from email anytime soon.


All of the new technologies require that the people you want or need to communicate with, are using the same technologies. In my world, and in many corporations, this is not yet a universal thing. But stay tuned, it’s coming.


chris @ conference facilities oxford said...

I don't think we're quite ready to lose email yet, primarily due to the fact that everyone uses it, everyone is comfortable with it, there's only a single inbox to manage rather than multiple profiles over twitter, instant messengers e.t.c

I would say I have used instant messaging to great effect in the past, and would recommend anyone get on it.

Zach said...

Interesting article. Thanks for the good read.