The Email Charter hopes to save our inboxes and sanity

Email is one of the most abused technologies around. People use it for all kinds of mismatched work: project management, instant communication, keeping people in the loop, etc. I can’t imagine living without email, but somedays I’d rather not live with it.

Check out the Email Charter’s 10 rules for making email work again:

1. Respect Recipients’ Time
This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.

5. Slash Surplus cc’s
cc’s are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don’t default to ‘Reply All’. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.

Here are a few of my guidelines for email:

  • Don’t expect an instant response — Email isn’t a real-time communication tool. If you need an instant answer, visit me in person, call or send an IM. If it’s not an immediate issue and you just want to talk, don’t call. Instead set up a time to chat. I’m probably working and don’t want to be interrupted.
  • Don’t call me to tell me you emailed me — If it was that urgent, see rule No. 1.
  • Email isn’t a text message replacement — If we are on a texting basis, and you’re looking for a response that could fit on a text, go ahead and send it as a text. I check my texts as they come in. Email? I have multiple inboxes and some I don’t even check daily. Being tethered to email constantly is underproductive.
  • Manage projects with project management software — Email is a terrible way to manage a project and keep all communications together. Try Basecamp and you’ll undersand. At the Interchange Project with use Google Docs to set up shows, not email. That would be a nightmare.
  • Attachements? There are better ways to send them — If it’s for work, just place it on our shared drive. Otherwise, you could place the files on Dropbox and send me a link. Or send the file over IM. The last thing I want is for my email to go down because large attachments have put me over my limit (or for you to call me and ask me if I received that huge email that didn’t go through).

2 Comments on “The Email Charter hopes to save our inboxes and sanity”

  1. Matt Hauger says:

    Your first bullet point resonates with me. I’m sorely tempted to add something like this to my email signature:

    I read and respond to email once each weekday around 9am. Should you have a more urgent issue, feel free to call me or drop by my office.

    Unfortunately, not every corporate culture would welcome this change (or the passive aggressive note). If email abuse is a communal addiction, can one worker adopt more healthy email practices without offending his colleagues?

    • I know of people who do something along these lines. Some people have an auto-responder that says they only check email once a day or twice a day or something along those lines. People then know not to expect an immediate response. Email is a productivity sink.

      I can’t do this at my job. The expectation is that I respond within a timely manner. The people who do this tend to work for themselves.

      A healthy email culture has to come from the top down.

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