Email Bankruptcy Followup

A while back I wrote a two paragraph post declaring email bankruptcy and in the weeks that followed I was really surprised by the level of interest in this topic. The post was included in Washington Post article, I was interviewed for a segment on CNN, and just last week Good Morning America called me about it.

I didn’t participate in the GMA piece because I am traveling this week, but also because I’m tired of talking about it. Incidentally, I asked the GMA producer if she had contacted Fred and she said that he didn’t want to talk about this anymore either.

But I do want to clarify something, this narrative on this story should not be "Jeff has too much email so he’s giving it up" but rather "like most people connected by technology, Jeff is evolving to learn how to better manage the multitude of communication options available to him".

I can’t give up email, it’s the single most essential communication tool I have, but I can’t, and in retrospect never could, deal with 250+ emails a day. So what am I doing differently? First and foremost is that I pick up my cell phone and call people. Instead of having a 15 reply chain of emails on a single thread, I make a single phone call or IM and deal more efficiently with the topic at hand. 

I am struggling with how best to use IM because I don’t like the interupt factor, same goes for Twitter but I am fascinated with that service. The atomization of conversation that is a consequence of new technologies, like Twitter’s 140 character limit, is another interesting subject to explore but something for another post.

I am also struggling with how best to use my inbox, having historically never deleted anything, relying on good search tools to find what I need. That system just doesn’t work anymore, so products like Xobni have my attention with their promise to build analytics on my inbox.


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9 thoughts on Email Bankruptcy Followup

  1. Nicely written Debbie.

    PS- there’s a typo:
    “I’ve got close to 2MB of email”

    should be “I’ve got close to 2GB of email”

  2. Oddly enough, I rely more heavily on email over time. I find the ability to converse asynchronously – as opposed to real time over phone or IM – very helpful – email minimizes the interruption factor, as you call it, which for me is the most frustrating part of overload.

    The other thing I loathe is voicemail. The average voicemailer is dismal at communicating the key points of whatever they called to say; I can’t count the number of messages I’ve deleted out of hand b/c of this.

    Final note: my “favorite” voicemails/phonecalls are when someone calls to tell me that they just sent me an email. Thanks, dude.

    Anyway – cool that the notion of bankruptcy struck such a nerve.

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  4. Jeff,

    I’m continually enthused by the enormous opportunity to improve email. As you said, “I can’t give up on email, it’s the single most essential communication tool I have.” Xobni’s goal is to help you understand your email usage and derive value from all the data trapped in your inbox. More broadly, Xobni makes email suck less.

    Thanks for the shout out. We’ll make sure to get you on an early version of the beta when it becomes available.

  5. …Whereas I hate people calling me (interruptive, and my work requires me to be ‘in the zone’ – a zone hard to get back into once snatched out of it) and even say explicitly on my biz cards that: “I prefer email. I mean, I REALLY prefer email.”

    Sitting on emails is what will kill me, though. I’m going to add a sig to my emails reading, “Please excuse my brevity and do not mistake it for abruptness; I’m trying to plow through 500+ unread emails! Thanks for your understanding.” I already send lots of very short mails, but waste some time using soft language and a bit more chattiness than necessary, just so people don’t think I’m being short with them. Hopefully the sig will free me to be more brief.

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