The email charter

This Email Charter – prompted by a blog post from TED’s Chris Anderson (not the Wired/Long Tail author) – is becoming a discussion point around the web and it has some good advice.

We all love the power of email connecting people across continents. But… we’re drowning in it.

Every year it gets a little worse. To the point where we can get trapped spending most of our working week simply handling the contents of our in-boxes.

As a set of 10 short tips it’s a good start and very easily digestible. The first tip is:

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.

I’m left wanting more though. I find email surprisingly relevant to discussion of social media tools in the workplace. A major cause of the email problem, as far as I can see, is unthinking and automatic use of email. Very often, email is seen as an all-purpose communication tool, even a to-do list, both of which are wrong. There are other options that work with or instead of email, e.g. a better personal to-do list (so you’re not dependent on other people to organise your time and commitments), collaboration tools such as a wiki and Google Docs, or even a phone call or face-to-face discussion.

‘I simply don’t have the time to try these alternatives’, people say. There’s an anxiety and fatigue¬† associated with email and sometimes the vague sense of unattended jobs lurking in the inbox.

Ultimately though, if we’re working in the knowledge economy then we’re going to have to grapple with this problem and change the way we do email (if at all), in order to do our work more effectively and win back time for the important things.