Stop Email Overload and Communicate Better
Because it’s so easy to contact anyone and everyone with the click of a button, many of us take a fishnet approach to communication, firing off correspondence to groups and distribution lists that may include more recipients than necessary. We tend to overcommunicate without stopping to think about exactly what needs to be conveyed to whom.
And it’s not just email. Today, many offices also use text messaging, instant messaging, video conferencing, cloud-based and web-based collaborative software, bug-tracking programs, and agile project management tools. When needing to retrieve correspondence, it can be challenging to remember its original source. Worse yet is when multiple platforms are used to discuss one topic.
If you’re not disciplined and organized, the daily waves of incoming information can easily turn into a tsunami. This results in our either wading through all the electronic correspondence each day, wasting time that could be spent more productively elsewhere, or being too overwhelmed by messages to read any of them at all.
It can get to the point where a message to everyone is a message to no one.
There are several ways that individuals and organizations can cope with the influx of information.
Rather than firing off every memo to the same prefabricated distribution list, send targeted distributions. This will help ensure that your message will be seen only by the intended recipients. Make a conscious decision about who should be on the receiving end of each communication, eliminating anyone who is irrelevant to that particular matter.
A project team can establish a protocol dictating which medium is used for the type of information being transmitted. Having a formal process for what information gets disseminated and how, rather than leaving it up to each employee to decide based on familiarity or convenience, can prevent a variety of problems.
An organization can also set up separate repositories for categories of information, rather than sending out project- or team-wide memos that may not pertain to everyone. This means that for issues that are crucial to your job, instead of waiting for the information to come to you, you go to the information at your convenience.
For example, if a particular test environment is going to be inaccessible due to maintenance, that information would be placed into its own repository. Those who need to work in that environment simply go to the designated repository to find out its status.
When implementing this type of system, there should be a standardized format for how the information is presented, rather than leaving it up to each sender. Dumping information into a repository in any old fashion is equivalent to having a library without a card catalog.
In the absence of this approach, individuals may establish their own personal repositories into which information can be copied—in essence, a sort of digital filing system, making it easier to find and retrieve correspondence in the future.
The multitude of communication options can actually inhibit our ability to communicate with each other. By becoming more deliberate about what we communicate and how, we can get back to the intended purpose of effectively conveying information.