Email has been the main method of communication for many organizations and individuals. It is truly an advance from Fax. And comparing to phone calls and instant messaging, it also allows the recipient to handle multiple conversations at a time of his convenience. Nevertheless, Emails are a main productivity killer.
Have a look your typical work day. How much time do you spend on responding emails? One hour is already too much. The average office workers spend most of their time on emails if not meetings or conference calls.
Sure we can blame work place inefficiency. But part of this inefficiency is rooted from the 3 fundamental flaws of Emailing:
Emails are non-structured
You can write anything in an email. This means you should be prepared to read the same request in all possible forms. For example, if you take shipping orders in email, you'll need to manually skip the greetings, open attachments if there are any, mentally correct the spelling mistakes, and in many occasions, email back to ask for missing information so as to fulfill the order.
Emails duplicates information
The non-structured nature of Email is recognized by many, consciously or not. And as an attempt to instill some structure, people often attach formulated documents such as Excel spreadsheets. This creates two other problems. One is that after a few rounds of conversation, you'll have a few copies that contain by and large the same information. At the same time, none of them contains the most up-to-date content.
Delegation is difficult with Emails
When you have a lot of work to do, you could use some help. Using Emails however, makes this process difficult. You either completely pass on all your work to your assistant, or you'll need to manually forward each email. You simply cannot divide the workload without being a bottleneck.
So how can we avoid using Emails? The key is to identify the processes that could be standardized. Then use web applications to automate data gathering and handling as much as possible. As a start, try using cloud computing services such as Google Docs or Google Spreadsheet instead of emailing that Excel document back and forth. These services have their limitations, but they get you one step closer to further automation.
And of course, not everything can be standardized. But there are ways to use emails more effectively
so that you have more time to actually get things done, or better yet, enjoy life.