14 million emails, 16,000 text messages...and only 24 hours in a day per person.
It's not possible to keep pace with the onslaught of email in a hectic business climate. That's why we need to redefine the rules. These changes might seem a little dramatic, and some people might even call them rude, but they are designed to streamline communication. Agree? Implement them (especially with me). Disagree? Send me your rules of engagement that work better.
1. The three email Slack rule
If you work in a company that uses Slack, you know it can be a bit nightmarish to figure out when you should use Slack or email. Slack is slowly replacing email, one chat at a time. Yet, not everyone is so agreeable to using it constantly. Here's the rule. If you have started any email conversation that has evolved (or more accurately, devolved) into an instant message chat, wait three sent emails from either party and then move to Slack. Important: If you know the topic will devolve into a discussion, move it to Slack before you get the threads going.
2. If the email has nothing to do with you, don't respond
I've written before about how it can be rude to say "no" by not responding. I also feel it's important to thank people, especially as a way to confirm an important email (say, arranging for a new business loan or signing up to be a new customer). Yet, if the email is not in your wheelhouse, don't respond. It's not your problem, your concern, your issue, or your area. You can safely skip the entire topic.
3. Get right to the point in a reply
I've mentioned before that it is a good idea to explain the whole story when you send an initial email. This makes the message more searchable. However, if you do get into a discussion or send a reply, get right to the point. This speeds up communication.
4. Send a blank email as a quick way to ask again
There was a time when I thought this one was slightly rude, and a few people have received a message to me and thought the same. (One thought it was a mistake. Ah, no.) However, in an age when we all receive hundreds of emails per week, I'm OK with this rule. A blank email with a previous question basically says--you didn't respond to the first one, maybe you missed it, what do you think?
5. Move ongoing public discussions to a Facebook group
I've been seeing more and more Facebook groups pop up. Honestly, there are times when they are more efficient than Slack or email. Those times are when you need to discuss something in a closed setting, but one where you can invite anyone quickly and easily. Slack is not it. Some people don't use Slack or understand how it works or like it. Everyone uses Facebook. The rule is, if there is a wide open and ongoing discussion, move the conversation to a Facebook group.
6. Answer important emails meant for you within two hours
Here's my big surprise. This will be tough. However, there is a way to make email more effective and it is by actually answering emails. I've seen how companies can operate in a vacuum, one where email becomes more of an archive than a communication medium. That needs to change. However, your answer can be simply "no" or a note that you are too busy. Obviously, if the email is not meant for you or was sent out to hundreds of people, this rule does not apply. I'm talking about a message sent to you that you really should answer. I try to live up to this rule myself unless it is "workplace" spam, not intended for me, or obviously not important.