5 Ways Email Is Trying To Ruin Your Career
Once upon a time, there was no such thing as email. Somehow, businesses survived – hard to believe, in this era of instant communication and confirmation of messages received. Most of the time, technology is a boon to the busy worker, allowing them to exchange information, plan projects, and collaborate on new ideas more efficiently.
Sometimes, however, technology is a real pain in the you-know-what. Email, in particular, can either be a productivity tool or a time suck, depending on you use it. Here’s how email is making your job harder than it needs to be, and what to do about it.
1. Eating all your time.
A McKinsey study showed that workers spend an average of 2.6 hours every day on email. If you work an eight- to nine-hour day, that works out to be a quarter of your workday spent on something other than your actual job.
What To Do About It: Efficiency experts recommend checking email only a few times a day. By batching tasks in this way, you can keep down the minutes wasted through tearing yourself away from one thing in order to go into your email. Another tip: turn off your message alert, so that you won’t be tempted by that evil little envelope.
2. Creating a false expectation of availability.
You train your co-workers how to treat you, and if you’re always available to answer requests right away, they’ll start to expect it – and be upset when you’re in a meeting or on a call or otherwise unable to reply.
What To Do About It: Retrain your co-workers, but don’t just start acting differently out of the blue. Communicate with your team about how you’re proceeding going forward, and be sure to mention that it’s in the best interests of productivity and time management (in other words, not just a way for you to have a less-annoying work experience).
3. Giving you an opportunity to be stupid … on the record.
Even if you have the world’s highest emotional IQ, you’re not perfect. Email lets you be not-perfect in writing, permanently, so that everyone can see and forward your mistakes to the boss.
What To Do About It: Don’t email angry, don’t send messages right after you wrote them, and don’t send anything in an email that you won’t print out and hang over your desk. Beyond that, accept that you’re going to make mistakes. As long as you don’t engage in office taboos like talking about politics or religion – and as long as you’re a genuinely decent person who attempts to avoid hurting others whenever possible – you’ll be OK. Knowing how and when to say sorry is useful, too.
4. Giving others an opportunity to misinterpret your totally well-meaning statements.
Your co-worker is mad at you, and you don’t know why. Then, you open your email – the one he or she is really steamed about – and all of a sudden, it hits you: this actually looks really bad, even though it was totally fine until your colleague gave it this particular spin.
What To Do About It: See above re: say you’re sorry. The power of apology is not to be underestimated. After that, least said, soonest mended.
5. Inviting you and your colleagues to make more work than necessary.
In a world without email, someone would have to type up minutes for every meeting and distribute them by hand. As a result, people would be a lot more careful about making work for themselves. Email makes communicating so easy, some folks start to think that they should be communicating all the time, about everything, and copying their entire management chain, all the way up the org chart to the CEO.
What To Do About It: Ask yourself before you email, “Is this email really necessary?” If the answer is no, don’t send. And be extra careful about copying. What seems innocuous to you can seem like tattling to someone else. If you really need to get every manager at the company involved, you’ll have your original email for backup. Don’t start out by giving the internet-illiterate a chance to employ the dreaded “reply-all.”
More Email Tips: How to Write Emails That Will Get Read