Oh, email. They said you would save time. They said you’d make our lives easier, that you would increase our productivity. What they neglected to mention is that you would never end and that you’d turn us all into e-slaves.
It all went wrong when people realised they could use it in lieu of talking to each other. Yes, shy people got hold of it and fucked it up for everyone. Anyway, here are some tips on wresting back control of email, and your life.
Let’s get one thing straight immediately, email is not an instrument of urgent communication. That’s what the telephone is for. Despite what someone may have typed into the Subject field, there is no such thing as an ‘urgent’ email. It’s an oxymoron. Nothing that someone might look at, maybe after lunch, or on Monday, if at all, should be used to convey urgent information.
To reinforce this in the minds of your colleagues, suppliers, etc, simply do not respond to email immediately. People will come to understand that they have to wait to hear back from you and, as a bonus, when you do get round to replying you will often find the the problem, request, ransom demand has been resolved.
Embrace your Out of Office and/or auto-respond. Use it creatively. Don’t just save it for holidays, put it on most of the time, so people stop emailing you. Make use of pretend departments and acronyms to baffle those contacting you. For example, after lunch you might prime your auto-respond to say something like: ‘I am delivering 2nd Quarter PCJs to RFP (Regional) till midnight tonight. Back in the office first thing tomorrow (10am).’
Wow, you sound amazing. Then, if you do respond within working hours your correspondent will actually feel flattered and impressed that you managed to get to their email early after all.
Better still, answer all email in draft form and then fire it all off at 11.50pm after a long dinner and a bottle of claret. Your reputation will be enhanced: ‘The thing with Sally is she does email every evening from home – she’s a fucking workaholic, no wonder she got the top job.’
Next up, ‘Empty Inbox Syndrome’. The pursuit of an empty Inbox is psychologically damaging behavioural folly. While you may achieve a temporary flicker of satisfaction when you delete that ‘last’ email, you know plenty more are following behind it and that ultimately your goal is unsustainable, a chimera.
If you yearn for the unattainable, you doom yourself to a life of disappointment. Psychologists have a term for those that engage in this sort of behaviour: Fucktards. Why not, they argue, yearn for the attainable? You know, like getting out of work on time. And face it, ‘I’ve got an empty Inbox’ is a lousy post-work opening line, unless you’re trying to pick up that new bloke in Post.
No, I haven’t deleted an email since 1998. Why would I? I never know when I might need it. With improved search, you don’t even need to sort them into folders to retrieve them. Simply think of your Inbox as your own personal giant, interrogatable database. There, isn’t that better? Then the emails can just sit there, waiting to be rediscovered years later when you need to prove you were right about something.
Sure, your IT department will send you regular requests to delete your email due to server space restrictions, or some such nonsense. Simply reply to your friends in IT, ‘Please stop sending me these emails as they are clogging up my system. If you need to discuss this matter further please call me.’ No-one in IT has ever called anyone.
How to win at email – in brief:
* Don’t answer emails immediately. Do something else instead, even your job. Or try for a nap.
* Block out time to do (yesterday’s) email. Don’t do email in your time – you must save that for the things that keep you human, like eating pie and pulling yourself off to A Place in the Sun.
* Never respond to an email with a question – you are merely inviting more email. Be clear, be decisive, be home early.
* Don’t write in an email what you wouldn’t write in a letter or say to face to face. Or, simpler still, don’t write them at all.
* Don’t delete email. It’s like deleting a bit of your mind.
* Make a point of answering annoying round-robin emails at length. Things like ‘Can whoever moved Jemima’s mini jelly-bean dispenser please return it. This was a present from Marketing and she is v. upset.’ deserve a fulsome 500 word response, just to keep you sane.
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