Email Consumes Us

We live in a hyper-connected world, yet part of the blowback is the excessive communication that occurs –I fear it will only get worse over time.

Today, I spoke to an Executive at medium sized corporation who confessed that she cannot keep up with her email inflow. She receives about 500 emails a day, and told me at the end of the day she sorts by sender. First from her CEO, then by the folks on her team directly reporting to her, and then whatever else she can get to.

Despite the many collaboration tools available to all of us, we use email for way too many tools (I’m guilty too) from: Status updates, document management, calendaring, collaboration, social networking, and even for ‘conversations’.

Part of the reason I blog is that I can get my message, thoughts and story out to thousands of people in just about twice the amount of time it takes to write an email. My colleagues follow me on twitter, and often know where I’m at, what I’m doing. Scoble publishes his calendar so those he needs to interview can help schedule. Yet despite these, I, my colleagues, and Scoble and you likely have more email than can be consumed.

Ironically, most of my social media peers and I still use email as one of the main ways to communicate back and forth to each other But even more, there are more inboxes to check, twitter, facebook, linkedin, I’m getting business messages from these tools and I’m sure you are too.

So what’s the solution? It’s going to be part process, and part tools. Some have committed to responding to emails only in five sentences or less, and new tools like Xobni are starting to appear (I’ve requested a beta account)

Questions for you
1) How is your email intake? Can you handle it all?
2) How do you make your communications more efficient?
3) We’re headed to a hyper-connected world with an increase in communication channels, how will you cope?

Update: I’m all for solutions, and have found that aside from the excellent comments below, that some suggest to only check email twice a day (11am and 4pm) and to set that as an expectation. Colleague Julie Katz has announced an upcoming strategic report to help marketers how to understand how to reach those that are consumed. Hopefully, this email service vendor ClearContext promises to help with the problems.

71 Replies to “Email Consumes Us”

  1. 1) I receive hundreds of emails per day and cannot get to them all except on a periodic basis. I too perform basic triage to identify which ones to read/action immediately. I have come to hate email!

    2) Increasingly I am turning to social media solutions, especially microcontent, to streamline my communications. Twitter combines business, professional & personal communications. Facebook keeps me up to date with friends.

    3) Aggregation services are key to collate all these diverse sources. However, the key is to filter the content so I can deal with important stuff first. No real answer, but open to suggestions.

  2. I really like Xobni, and it’s one tool to enjoy. Another one worthy of trying is:

    http://www.awayfind.com

    But I’ll admit, I’m biased since it’s my product. Onto other things:

    I’m in the same boat as you (though not as severely)–surrounded by so many different streams of information from various social media outlets. The key, though not a panacea, is to at least minimize the number of places you have to check, so that when you do let it all in it’s easier to act upon it. Some of the mechanisms for that are turning off a lot of the email notifications in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter…changing things to RSS wherever possible…and religiously setting up filters (Gmail) or rules (Outlook) to keep all the second-tier information out of your main inbox. Thus the first step is removing what gets to you and how you check it.

    The second is setting realistic expectations for people about responsiveness.

    There still comes a point where there’s perhaps too much information. I think tools like AwayFind are a good middle ground for that–since it can silently involve other people in the mix while setting expectations. But really it all does come down to discipline when you finally do check email–and Inbox Zero and GTD can be quite helpful for that.

  3. 1. Lots of different emails are coming through, but it’s manageable.

    2. I try to check email less often and set a time to deal with email instead of the second each one hits my inbox.

    3. I recently read about http://www.awayfind.com in a TechCrunch post comment but haven’t tried it yet; it’s meant to get high priority messages filtered through when one’s not checking their email.

  4. 1a. It was in the hundreds per day due to the fact that itโ„ขs mandatory to read the engineering mailing lists where I work. The next big sinner was CC chains that grow as they get passed around.
    1b. I was barely handling it until,
    2. I decided to unsubscribe from the lists & read them forum style instead & to bring my own personal noise pollution down by subconsciously asking questions like,
    * Is this email really needed/not needed?
    * Can this be said in a few words at the coffee machine?
    * How many people really need to be CC’ed?
    * Can I use the phone instead? (remember the phone?)
    * Do I need 500 IM chats active or can they be opened/closed on demand? etc.

    My goal this year is to be more concise in what I communicate & as you will see here, it’s a work in progress ๐Ÿ™‚
    Twitter I have found, is great place to train 140 word communication discipline.

    3. Encourage co-workers to question what they need to communicate, to who & how. Delegate more. Communicate with fewer words. Make it understood that I won’t reply to everything but will read.

    I did write an article on my Tumblr about this kind of “road congestion”. Act like a Ninja on the motorway of life – http://tinyurl.com/2uzbpp @steveswrong

  5. This topic of email overload will never get old! Thanks for posting jowyang.

    I am absolutely swamped with inbound messages. Email is a major culprit, but so are all the pokes, application requests, flickrmails, tweets and other. Some of these tools provide better moderation options than other, especially twitter.

    On email, here’s my deal. I get about 300 msgs a day on my personal account.

    1. I filter MADLY. My inbox is my temple.

    To end up there, a message must be worthy. Nearly all mailing lists and social network alert notification type things skip right past the inbox and go into their own folders.
    Then, on MY schedule, I check for those things. Email is rarely about breaking news (that’s what twitter is for) so I risk little in terms of missing something important

    2. I don’t feel the need to reply to all messages

    the awk signal is unnecessary. If my reply was simply gonna be “nice” or “got it” well then it doesn’t need to be sent.

    3. Triage that bad boy.

    The order in which email is delivered and presented to you is NOT the order of its importance to your life. It’s always just the latest. That’s weak.

    Cute little things that folks send over saying “watch this” get booted to folder IMMEDIATELY. then, if I have time, after having dealt with the email calling on me to save America. Then, maybe, I check out the cute picture of internet things

    I’m reading Kurzweil’s Singularity book right now, and I am so ready for it. Not the human-enslaving Skynet version, but the smart agents that filter the digital traffic in your life for you version.

    In the meantime, I’m looking forward to better integration of priorities and filters ACROSS my methods of communication.

    For example, I love the Friend List feature on facebook. I made a list called, basically, “real friends” and that’s where I start my login.

    I’d love for the “real friends” list to exist as an overlay on my gmail account and SMS/phone calls too.

    Google can do this now, in fact, but they don’t. We have contact groups in Google, but they’re only useful for sending mass messages. Where’s the intelligence? Clearly not yet at the edge of the network.

    I could go on and on about this subject, but I’ve got to clear out some emails.

    Seriously.

    i need an intern.

  6. oh man i am spamming your blog post.

    one more thing — i feel like columbo here — i’m setting up an FAQ on my website that tries to answer a lot of inbound questions.

    this solves for

    a) people who don’t need to email from the site cause their question is answered

    b) i can reply quickly with a link to the FAQ rather than re-writing the same answer to 20 different people.

    done now
    promise.
    gotta run.

    I’m evading SNIPER FIRE!!

  7. I think the issue is not email per se.

    Replace the communication channel of email with, say, phone. What if you received 500 phone calls/day? Or faxes, or letters? Why, then is it ok to receive 500 emails a day? So I don’ think the issue is email, nor is the solution turning to RSS or blogs, or any other communication channel.

    Rather, I think the larger issue is hyper-communication — everyone is trying to get your attention for the message they are trying to convey.

    Try this: travel to a country where people can’t get a hold of you via electronic means. Go to a remote part of Ireland or Argentina. Feel that? That is what it feels like to not be in a hyper-communication culture.

    The solution? I think we need to redefine our communication rules as a whole, not just email.

  8. I find it interesting that so much attention is being paid to tools like Xobni when Gmail has had many of its features for some time. I realize that much of corporate America is addicted to Outlook, but isn’t it time we admitted that its an antique and started using better tools instead?

    For extra productivity with Gmail and Firefox you can try the GTD extension (assuming the latest update to Firefox hasn’t broken it.)

    -Marty

  9. I work at a BigLaw firm — everything related to email & document is locked down. It’s such a drag. In the daily volume are countless cc-chains going nowhere. Here’s a novel concept: pick up the phone. Sending volumes of email in order to “CYA” is counterproductive.

    There tremendous value in using social apps like readers and twitter to stay current with people. The only problem I have is most people I know – professionally and personally – aren’t yet addicted.

    @Baratunde: lol, is it sniper fire or sleep deprivation?

  10. I only have emails in my inbox from May 11 and there’s over 2K. But I also manage emails from the corp website. If emails are longer than a paragraph i file in a “read later” folder. If it’s from sr. mgmt it’s read immediately. I eliminated IM to mitigate distractions.

    Communicating effectively for me in a corp environment means collecting a list of “people to communicate with” at the start of the day and then getting up out of my desk and going to talk face-to-face. I also block out phone time on my calendar.

    If I’m ever over-connected, I’ll just purge.

  11. Jeremiah I have 2 Xobni invites left if you want one! DM me @agershenbaum your email and I will send an invite if you want one.

    I found Xobni because I was driving home from work one day and thinking about the amount of emails coming through my inbox. I am coordinating SMM for over 12 bands as well as organizing large street teams in the US, Canada, Europe. There are times when things are slow and I get 20 emails in a day but then there are times when I have 2 and 3 artists on tour one is releasing an album, another releasing a video etc. I am fielding and coordinating directives to and from my dept, PR, retail, and planning street team initiatives around the tours. As you can imagine it is a lot of information and correspondence. sometimes over a 100 day. Nowhere near the 350 mark but a decent volume to manage. Add to that coordinating and gathering assets and resources for the online creative i.e. posters, graphics, landing pages, interviews, business inquiries generated via social profiles, features, placements, email capture campaigns, video blogs etc. Using a project management tool like JIRA does help cut down on email volume. When all these things are going on at once the only thing I was resorting to was the old create rules, and sort into folders method and that does seem to do the trick for me.

    So I was stressing out asking myself if there is a toll that lets me categorize my inbox not by folders (because some emails fall into multiple buckets) but by tags or keywords.

    So I googled it and came to a thread going back to 2005 where people were having the same discussion saying something like this would not be available until 2009. I joined in on the conversation and low and behold a few weeks later the original poster clued me in to Xobni.

    Since then it has made my email world so much more interesting. I can see who emails me the most, at what time of day, how fast their average respinse time is, schedule meetings, and sort by keyword. It is lighting fast and has come in handy so many times in the past few months.

    Best part about Xobni are the analytics. So far in 2008 I have fielded 3,101 emails 684 of them coming to me on a Wednesday. 2,400 of those emails I took no action on. In March I have had an average response time from those I email of about 8 minutes. I manage 35 folders. Most of the people I correspond with answer my emails in the first 2 hours of starting their day.

    I suggest anyone dealing with a sometimes unmanageable volume of emails give Xobni a shot. Once you get the invite from them, they give you 5 invite codes that you can send just by pushing a button in their sidebar which is pretty cool. I gave my first 5 out pretty quick and then noticed they gave me 5 more.

  12. – At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s WAY to easy to send email. The fiscal discipline of snail mail postage is ancient history (and of course despite this has had a major junk mail/spam problem also).

    The whole communication paradigm needs to shift away from endless iterations of cc’s and casual dispatches.

    Drowning in a sea of email is actually incredibly stressful because it’s tough to make the critical ones stand out – important clients, senior management etc. There is no sense of proportion in email…how cool would it be if your email was a cloud with the important ones somehow defined in huge type?

    Email is like the dark ages at this point – I just got out of a big corporation using lotus notes – it is brutal…

  13. Did you see the google tool, mail-trends http://code.google.com/p/mail-trends/? I wish I’d had it when I worked at HP. I was always trying to figure out where my 300+ messages/day came from and how many I read, how many I responded to, how many were just to me, etc.

    I’ve always kept up on all my mail but it takes a lot of work. My incentive is it makes me feel guilty to have an inbox full of mail I haven’t answered.

  14. I want to quit email. I have 4598 Unread after my great spam filters and automatic trash folders. I just can’t catch up. I tried two different VAs, but neither could handle it.

    On the other hand, my three phone lines have no unanswered messages. Please, just call.

  15. Aggressive use of filters & tags for the win. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And use a good email client. Gmail doesn’t cut it; get Thunderbird if you don’t want to be tied to Outlook.

  16. I regularly have entire multi-week projects assigned to me, over email, by people who are senior to me in our organization but to whom I have no reporting relationship whatsoever, except the perceived concern that they may give feedback about my lack of responsiveness.

    That’s the culture we’ve created for ourselves, where projects and requests and assignments are only a few types and a send away, and we live in the constant distress of having to manage them amidst the day-to-day communication and updates and notices, all coming to the same inbox.

    Even as I’m typing this, I’ve watched a thread where a project manager has sent four required meetings to managers spread across the globe, with no advanced notice, the first meeting for next week, and with expectations that they all will rearrange their schedules to attend.

    What other time in history have we had this type of tool with these types of expectations attached?

    It’s sheer madness, and I think many, perhaps most of us, are fed up with the insanity, and are well into pushing back and setting better ways to govern our work and personal lives.

    I think the key and answer, for me at least, is to set boundaries that work well for me and to be very public about them. My boundaries and response methods may be very different than someone else (just as people use twitter for many different things and in different ways), so the key, for me, is to let everyone know what I’m going to do and not do, and to stick with it.

    This doesn’t mean others will like my approach – in fact, they’ll regularly test the boundaries, try to get around them, and find new ways to try to get me to do what they want, when they want. So I have to be prepared for how I’ll respond, while being appropriately responsive and courteous.

    No clear answer or method, but some guidelines I’ve started using for myself that are essential for my sanity, productivity, and relationships.

  17. Great issue that we all need to solve.

    1) I do find email nearly overwhelming. I get 200-300 messages per day, none of it spam (thank you, SpamBayes), and it builds up fast.

    2) No matter how efficient you are, even if you use systems like Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero, you eventually run into the laws of email physics.

    3) I find that sorting mail by subject line lets one deal with a lengthy thread in one shot.

    4) One important thing many people forget is that you can often cut off a lengthy thread in the making by picking up the phone or even going over to see a person face to face.

  18. Hi
    I guess the comments above have kind of put forth a lot of ideas… in short:
    – one is more in cc..need to have email etiquettes strong..
    even if loads of individual mails..my concern always has been what about the private self, the world outside.. its like all the people i know are glued to TV, radio or comp…they see the world, sky but on weekends, u r always connected thru phone, mobiles, can social network through twitter… but seriously isnt this a concern…
    wat say u?

  19. ‘We has met the spammers and they is us’ might be Walt Kelly’s take. I average 150 inbound emails/day; at Dell it was 300+. They’re driven by three issues:

    1) Etiquette – lengthy or unnecessary ‘CYA’ emails cc’ing too many people. Solution: be the change you wish to see. Challenge the sender diplomatically with “do I need to be on this discussion” (I’ve been known to respond with a Usenet-style ‘unsubscribe’). Avoid bad email etiquette – behavior change never happens unless it’s modeled

    2) Relative ease of sending – unnecessary email imposes a burden on the recipient, not the sender. Solution: many. I don’t have the luxury of telling the CEO “send me less email”, but I influence where I can. Very short answers when necessary, a quick delete when superfluous. I head off impending lengthy chains by following up with a ‘me-mail’ (in-person driveby) or phone call to turn an all-day chain into a five-minute conversation

    3) Organizational ambiguity – when it’s unclear who is responsible for something, people respond by cc’ing all suspects. Solution: clear role definition when possible. If many are cc’d and you’re the owner, raise your hand by responding to the chain with “I’ve got this issue”, then remove unnecessary bystanders from the chain

  20. I probably deal with 100 to 200 messages per day. My secret, I suppose, is to deal with each email at the time I read it, if at all possible. If I can’t, I leave it and move on to other things. Inevitably, if that email is important, another follow-up will come. If not, time takes care of it.

  21. Jeremiah,

    I get between 100-200 emails a day. These are roughly 1/5 general updates/status reports/enquiries and 4/5 work-related requests. I am a researcher that provides a direct service internally and acts as a contact point externally. Therefore I have no choice but to stay on top of my emails.

    I’m afraid I am guilty of sending “receipt” emails which acknowledge my awareness and notes any immediate issues, but contains the disclaimer that I will look at the issue fully at a specified time. This (one might argue) needlessly adds to email volume, but I am less concerned with quantity and more with quality. By mentally processing and then deleting the “non-quality” emails, I am able to stay abreast of my work.

  22. I just love this direct message I received last night from a friend:

    “ignore it. if it is really critical the phone will ring & larger problems get solved.”

    Heh.

  23. I definitely have email overload, though email also helps me with dealing with overload in other channels like blogs/RSS. I get almost all of my favorite blogs in a daily digest through feedblitz, and I’ll take time to read those few dozen blogs (not all of which are updated daily) rather than the hundreds in my RSS reader. So email’s a double-edged sword for me.

  24. I suffer with email overload, and it’s a combination of incoming demands, losing important information in the bowels of my inbox, the over simplistic chronological listing and the requirement to deal with emails on a case by case basis.

    I work on the GTDInbox for Gmail Firefox addon (http://gtdinbox.com), which provides a database-like structure to your inbox, transforms incoming demands into prioritised actions, and tunes Gmail for faster daily processing.

    Email tends to come in 3 forms: a request/demand (complex response), an acknowledgement (no response), and information (polite acknowledgement required).
    I follow the GTD 2 minute rule, which says that if an email can be dealt with in 2 minutes, it should be (and then archived away).

    I think reducing the use of email to the bare minimum is crucial. RSS replaces email newsletters, Twitter replaces effective broadcasting; and the phone is still the ultimate tool for resolving the more complex discussion required in a disagreement (agreements are written, disagreements are spoken).

  25. Hi Jeremiah! How timely! I have been reading lately lots and lots of various blog posts on the subject of how e-mail is broken and everything. And I must admit that all along I don’t think it is actually broken, but more that it needs some serious re-purposing back to what its original intent was: a private one-on-one communication discussing sensitive or confidential information.

    For the rest it should go OUT!! And that is what I have been doing myself for the last seven weeks with my work related e-mail (Externally, I don’t get those many e-mails, so haven’t implemented it yet there, but over time I may as well do it!). I have given up on it and have diverted the conversations into various social software spaces. And so far the results, after the first 6 weeks and this one being the 7th have been TREMENDOUSLY positive! Have a look into this link: http://is.gd/2YA for some further updates on progress reports I get to publish on a weekly basis.

    Mail overload? Perhaps. But one thing for sure is that the more e-mail you reply to, the more you will get. So go ahead and start diverting all of those public conversations that may come through to you via e-mail. You will see the positive impact and reactions from people.

    Ever since I started following that approach, I am no longer worried, nor stressed about e-mails. Folks know where they can reach me faster. And not only me, but my social networks as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. If you check your email four times a day, and filter out the unnecessary, the rest can be prioritized quickly. The problem with computers is that everyone feels like a god when using them, so every single issue is Really Freakin Important even though most of them are non-entities.

  27. This is a topic we’ve discussed quite a bit lately in the office. Most of us have grown accustomed to receiving and replying to hundreds of emails a day. It’s tough, but our Project Managers are able ;-). The problem is that we’re noticing that the emails we’re responding to are often not read! Most of these emails concern ongoing projects and often contain details that, if overlooked, could damage the project’s success. Lately, though, it will become apparent at a later point in the project that some of these details were not ‘received’ (i.e. read). Thank goodness for Gmail’s searchable archive, and of course, for the telephone, right? My guess is that some of the people we work with are struggling with email, too, and as Kate Carruthers responded,”perform(ing) basic triage” often as they skim through email. This has made us hyper-aware of organizing thoughts well in our emails, being concise, and even using visual techniques to highlight the importance of some information.

  28. I’ve trained myself to act or delete emails as soon as they arrive, filing a small percentage for reference/later action.

    I’ve also found that by blogging/twittering/IM’ing and phoning more, my email amounts have lessened immensely.

    That, combined with some filtering, means that my only real email problem is letting go of filed items and avoiding the reference folders building up to stupendous sizes.

    I’m still working on regular clearouts once a week of email, RSS and favourites files I’ve saved. Tools like Delicious and Feedeachother have helped, as has my increasing discipline and prioritisation….

  29. At the large firm where I work I receive probably ten to fifteen emails per week that are marked “mandatory action required” in the subject line. It sends a shiver of pleasure down my spine every time I delete one without reading it. If it’s really important, someone will eventually call.

  30. I was thinking of leaving my IM address on my voicemail and email so people are limited to how much info they can leave me…I’m also thinking of leaving my cell # on my voicemail so they can text me..(I’ll have to wait until all the world twitters)…Since most requests I delegate to others to complete…This would keep projects moving and they wouldn’t get backed up. I don’t carry a blackberry…again this allows full email, attachments, access, etc to find it’s way to you.

  31. I get a goodly amount of email on a daily basis, but I don’t much let it rule my life. I reply to the folks I know, and let the others wait. Much of my inbox is full of PR pitches for my blog… most of which get deleted because they obvious have no idea who I am or what kind of content I write.

    Others are okay and I save them to a folder to answer when I have time.

    I HATE the phone, so folks who say let email slide and you’ll get a call…well, don’t call me and don’t expect me to call you. Phone calls take up FAR MORE TIME than emails. People like to chat way too much.

    One thing I’ve learned to do from Jeremy Wright of B5Media, is to delete, delete, delete. If I have not read an email for a month…newsletter, personal, or otherwise… it should be deleted.

    Still, today I have 1647 emails in my Inbox. That’s 1600 I will probably never read and which need deleting. Guess that’s what I’ll do this weekend.

  32. Hi Jeremiah,

    Monday morning inboxes terrify me- I wake up to at least 50 emails and I’m only a college student. By the end of the day, I probably go through around 100, most of which are emails from school (which I usually consider spam but feel bad about filtering).

    I try to respond to emails immediately. Usually, if I really need to put things off, i’ll use the “star” feature in gmail, but then I forget that I need to un-star it or else mail begins to pile up uncontrollably. I also use two separate emails; one I check compulsively and use exclusively for important communication needs, and one which I use for general blog updates etc.

    Also, because I don’t have a blackberry, I set up a gmail program into my phone which I am beginning to regret. I find myself checking my email in the middle of class, during meetings…it’s rather distracting.

  33. Managing your email is just like managing workflow or anything else. If you’re getting too many unnecessary emails and it’s hurting your ability to work efficiently there are a number of ways to deal with it. There are online collaboration tools and project management software that can eliminate a great deal of the bulk. If you can’t manage 500 emails a day, your tenure in a management position is probably not going to be a long one anyway.

  34. The issue with email is it is the lowest common denominator and won’t go away for the foreseeable future. Instead, people need alternate means to share information. I blogged about this very problem:

    http://blog.groupswim.com/2008/01/22/why-any-collaboration-strategy-must-include-email/

    We are hoping that using collaboration tools will help drive email traffic down so email is used only to coordinate and communicate versus collaborating or sharing information.

  35. 1. Check email 3-5 times per day
    2. If more email in inbox than have time to process, then read emails from boss first, then clients/prospects, then everyone else
    3. If more email in inbox than have time to process, excess goes to Action folder
    4. Inbox is always left empty at end of email run
    5. Action folder processed 1x a day or a few times per week

    That works for me.

  36. Michael Arrington posted a comment looking for new ways of commuicating to replace email altogether. My thought:

    How about a multi-directional RSS reader/publisher that enables trackback-like comments, keyword tagging, social media posting, and privacy settings galore? Emails, tweets, IMs, social networking feeds, forum threads, etc. all come in and get organized however you like: type of message, source of message, sender’s relationship to you, PageRank, Technorati score, topic’s heat in the blogosphere, and so on. Postings and topics that generate volume by trusted sources or popular sites can rise in rank. You determine the mix of values right for you. And each value can be it’s own RSS feed, which can be separated or combined with any other feed. Your message replies – from within the reader/publisher itself – are sent to the originating service (TypePad, iChat, Twitter, Gmail, whatever) and/or to a public, private or group RSS feed depending on publishing and usage rights. Everything is tracked within the program/service. And, to top it off, there’s a Digg-like voting system you can use on any of the values you choose so the person, group, site, publisher, etc. knows what you think of the message in case you don’t have time to respond any other way. Anonymized data on votes, subscriptions and subscriber rankings should be valuable enough to message/feed initiators, contributors, followers, and advertisers to fund the thing.

    If I were a programmer, I’d write it myself. If I were a VC, I’d fund it just for me. Since I’m just a fan of the site (and an employee of a high-tech PR firm), I’ll just stay tuned to see what others think of the idea.

    BTW, Motorola’s CEO doesn’t even use a computer, apparently. His secretary prints emails and he dictates responses. http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/26/motorola-insider-tells-all-about-the-fall-of-a-technology-icon/

  37. If we use private messaging elsewhere at least we have context.
    I’d rather my facebook friends private or public message me on facebook, I’d rather my Twitter friends d msg me on twitter, etc…
    This way I get the msg in context.

    At work we use OpenText for communities and at the moment it doesn’t have private messages, so we use email, but I’d rather all msgs between me and my community friends from various communities to be located in this context.
    Otherwise the email inbox is just a fire hose of stuff pouring in from all different contexts, instead if my msgs are in the context of the application it’s moreso organised in a way…I have to visit a place to get those types of msgs, and another app to get another type of msg.

    I’ve been trying to get people to use Pownce as an email alternative, but then they all have to sign up, not going to happen.

    The downside of having your messages in context is they are scattered all over the place, we need some sort of startpage approach.
    I haven’t used it for a while, but Fuser is trying to solve this problem, they even have a facebook app.
    http://www.fuser.com/

    Like you say, your email inbox is becoming a notification stream. Well Fuser is a central inbox where all private messages from various social networks are delivered to you, and then you can also send a private message back to that service…not sure how many services they support.

    This achieve’s 2 things:

    1. You can go to each social network and untick the box for email notification when someone sends you a private msg
    This means it frees up your email inbox from all these notifications.

    2. It gets you using the other apps to send messages, freeing up your sent box, and inbox, as hopefully friends will return the msg from the service you sent it from

  38. XBoni is cool, but has some performance issues and I had to get rid of it. I can typically handle about 100 emails per day but receive quite a few more than that. Writing sophisticated rules usually based around the sender’s email is crucial. I use these to drive a portion of my emails to my hand held so I can be on top of emergencies.

    I rarely drop email responses but I can’t say it never happens. I always make it clear to my immediate team that if there is an emergency they should escalate by another form of communication. “Email is great for information but for communication” a friend once told me, and I take that to heart.

    For me coping with a larger influx is best handled by better tools, and clear segregation of work and personal communication channels.

  39. I love email. That still is my favourite way to stay in touch with people I care.

    Actually I don’t receive hundreds of emails per day, and hope it will’ not happen, anyway I try to use few different accounts: one for the job, one for social media, and one strictly personal.
    The second and third are now merging, not for my choice, actually. It’s just happening.

    Anyway I try to keep mail messages as short as possible, and use social network as much as possible.
    Skype (voice) sometimes is faster than a written message.
    A telephone? What’s telephone?
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. MULTIPLE EMAILS AND FILTERS

    I have mastered email management (I’m also a bit OCD).

    I set up multiple accounts that all come in to the same email client, but this helps filter.

    I’m very specific about who gets what email address.

    Only friends, family and active business associates get my main email address that I protect.

    I have an “events@” email address that I use to sign up for Concert Notifications, Art Gallery Openings, etc.

    I have a generic account I use to sign up for stuff online (that’s the one I also use for blog posts like this).

    I have another one for “contact me” on my website and a different one for “contact me” on my blog.

    FOR MY EMAIL CLIENT I USE APPLE MAIL, but I know similar filters exist for other email apps. In Apple Mail they are called rules.

    I HAVE SET UP 48 RULES. Many rules then have as many as 20 or more parameters. Parameters usually include “FROM”, though ones set up for spam also have hundred of parameters for words used in subject lines.

    When an email comes from a domain of one of my clients, it is automatically backlit with a RED bar (emails from my wife come in red text).

    Emails from any social media site that I’m a member of come in with the text labeled by the color of that site’s branding (teal blue for Linked[in], bright blue for Facebook) and are then further filtered into a folder of Social Media website notifications.

    All “Second tier” communication gets further filtered into a folder in the left panel. I have 36 folders. About half of them are there for automated filtering. Other, like my “family” folder, I move messages to manually after I have read them.

    If the email comes from a link on any of my own websites, it is highlighted in yellow.

    I have filters set up for my attorney, my bank, my accountant, etc.

    Therefore, only “important” emails are seen in my main in-box, and those are all colored coded based on who they are from. At a glance, I can tell if there is something actionable I need to attend to.

    If a piece of spam does manage to get through my many layers of spam filtering, I use the “bounce” feature, so to spammers my account(s) appear to be dead addresses.

    If I’m hunkered down doing work, I shut everything down. Email IM, phone on vibrate and screened, put on headphones and get to work. Otherwise I’m pretty accessible.

    People I do business with, and friends, are pretty good about knowing what info should be emailed, when to IM or TXT, and when is best to just pick up the phone. Email me for anything that needs to be documented or scheduled, IM me if you see I’m online or otherwise TXT me with on-the-fly updates/info, and call me if you need to discuss, or if there is an emergency. Generally these things seems like common sense to me, and I guess my friends and clients are smart people because they all seem to practice these procedures without being told or explained.

    ANOTHER THING:
    I’ve been practicing this kind of email management for many years. I did not sit down one day and create all of these rules, filters and folders. I started doing so years and years ago, and my system has just evolved with my needs. This explains the complexity. To sit down and set this up from scratch might involve a couple hours analyzing what kinds of emails you get from who and how to prioritize and best organizing them. A half day of setting up rules, and a few days of tweaking.

  41. 1) How is your email intake? Can you handle it all?
    Surprisingly little. Much of the talk is done via IM or through SMS. I phone people more often than folks of my age in China.

    2) How do you make your communications more efficient?
    Check email wherever I go. (When I’m online, email and tweets update themselves every 5 minutes; if I feel it’s too much, I shut down all network connections like wifi and Ethernet.) Not sure if that’s “efficient”, but it prepares me for what I’ve to write back.

    3) Weโ„ขre headed to a hyper-connected world with an increase in communication channels, how will you cope?
    I’m ready for this. I’m on Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, IM, Xiaonei, Fanfou, LinkedIn, Facebook, you name it, Dopplr, and still have my email accounts and my 2 mobile phones. I’m ready for this whole thing, to be quite honest.

  42. like most folks here I receive my fair share of email between work and personal it gets pretty crazy. However my issue with email is nobody really reads it. How many times have you had to send the same email about a project two, three and four times discussing the same points and topics because more than likely you have been filtered, deleted or worse you remain unread.

  43. Personally to effectively cope with the incoming streams of information including email Iโ„ขm using my summarization application. At a click of a button I get to see the essential keywords and the most important sentences. Over period of time I found that looking at the instant information capsules gives me quite useful insight and saves me a lot of time. If you would like to try out summarization this is the product link: Context Organizer from Context Discovery Inc.

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