As summer sputters to a dismal close it’s time to refocus on work and all of its tailings — like email.
Yuck, right? Who likes email?
Apparently we all do. We carry it around in our pockets.
I blame the Blackberry for this societal malfeasance.
But it doesn’t need to go on.
I urge you to join me in unweaving this discoloured thread from the fabric of our collective existence.
Take your email off your phone.
Do it now.
I did it earlier this year and life and work are both grander for it.
It’s like I took my head out of a burlap sack and I can suddenly see the world around me.
I sense resistance in you, though. That’s normal behaviour for an addict.
So let’s understand what we’re talking about: what is email?
Duh, right? It’s a method of communicating.
But it’s a method of communicating that belongs in a certain time and place. Like your desk. In your office.
Not at the dinner table with your kids. Or at the meeting table with your co-workers. Or walking down the street. Or at the coffee shop.
Email on your phone means dissing the people around you.
Plainly put: it’s rude, and that’s reason enought to turf it.
But even that is still only one good reason of many.
Here’s another: emails you write on your phone suck.
How could they not?
You’re using some crappy little chiclet keyboard or a tiny sheet of glass to tap out words and sentences and paragraphs on an itsy bitsy screen. There’s no way to effectively compose an email like that.
That’s not what a phone was made for.
A text? Sure.
A tweet? Yup.
But a long-form email? Nope.
So to compensate for the poor tool at hand you’ve probably become accustomed to writing emails differently.
Where “differently” means “crappily”.
You’re using acronymns, smilies, dropping punctuation, and failing to correct spelling and grammatical errors. What should be a sentence is reduced to a phrase, a phrase to a word. The things you actually want to say are lol’d out of existence.
Nevermind the fact that you’re operating in a state of total distraction.
The kids are fighting, co-workers are arguing, the people two tables down are necking, and your friend is talking to you (but you’re not listening because you’re too busy writing this damned email).
How can you possibly focus on the task at hand and write a proper email under those conditions?
You’re wasting your time and the time of the people around you.
In short, you’re failing to communicate effectively.
But you know this. After all, you don’t write emails on your phone to communicate. You do it to pose. To look cool. To feel important.
Because everybody else is doing it — so maybe you’re a total loser if you’re not, right?
Of course, you might argue that you have no choice but to use your mobile phone for email. There’s just too much email, so you have to fill every crevice of your existence with the stuff just to stay on top of it.
You’re only fooling yourself with that line of reasoning.
By constantly manufacturing email, you’re part of the problem.
Email is like those tribbles from the old Star Trek — it seems cute, but it self-replicates to the point that it will suffocate you.
Only you can make it stop. Limit when and where you use email, and focus on the quality of the messages you produce.
Find the right time and right place, like a clean desk in a quiet office with the door closed. You’ll be able to focus on understanding the messages you receive, and respond appropriately, legibly, and comprehensively.
You’ll end up writing less email that is of a much higher quality.
At all other times in your life, pretend email doesn’t even exist.
The people around you will respond to the new respect you’re demonstrating to them (you know, by actually interacting with them).
And the people who receive your delightfully composed intelligent messages won’t have to reply eighteen times asking for clarification.
In fact, maybe they won’t have to reply at all. (Wouldn’t that be great?)
Of course, if you’re the sort of person who gets off on a slab of plastic constantly vibrating in your pants pocket, well, I can’t help you there.
But for the rest of us who just want to use email for communication, we’d all do well to take it off our mobile phones and relegate it to the desk.
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, August 31, 2012.