@ Collaboration360, we rarely get a clutter of e-mail. We devised a specific Tangible Vision that prioritized our e-mails we get.
I Freed Myself From E-Mail’s Grip
EARLIER this year, I became tired of my usual morning ritual of spending hours catching up on e-mail. So I did something drastic to take back control of my productivity.
I stopped using e-mail most of the time. I quickly realized that the more messages you answer, the more messages you generate in return. It becomes a vicious cycle. By trying hard to stop the cycle, I cut the number of e-mails that I receive by 80 percent in a single week.
It’s not that I stopped communicating; I just communicated in different and more productive ways. Instead of responding individually to messages that arrived in my in-box, I started to use more social networking tools, like instant messaging, blogs and wikis, among many others. I also started to use the telephone much more than I did before, which has the added advantage of being a more personal form of interaction.
I never gave up my work e-mail address, because I still need it for some work-related activities — for example, for one-on-one discussions that are too private and confidential to discuss publicly.
I was in a good position to give up most of my other e-mail because I’m a “social computing evangelist” for I.B.M. and have used social software tools for years to collaborate on projects and to share knowledge. I live in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain and report to managers in the United States and the Netherlands. Between time differences and participation in various projects, it’s important that I spend my time efficiently.
I have had continuing support from my management in this effort, because I’ve been able to prove how much more I can accomplish by answering a question, and posting it on a blog, for example, than I can by answering the same question over and over. I still help people, but in a more open and collaborative fashion. Other people can join in the discussions — maybe they will have a better idea than mine.
I started this experiment by announcing my intention on a couple of blogs, like my personal one and blogs inside I.B.M.’s firewall. The postings in response were overwhelmingly positive — but I also encountered some skepticism. Many people wondered how I would manage to communicate and collaborate with my peers without using e-mail.
The first step was to decide which social software tools were available for me to use much more extensively. The second was to encourage people to stop using e-mail themselves and to start using some of these same social software tools as well, to share their knowledge and collaborate with one another.
Most social networking tools I use are pretty standard. Instant messaging is my preferred method of collaboration and knowledge sharing while at work because it allows real-time interaction. If an instant-message exchange lasts more than three minutes, I usually move the discussion to the telephone.
Other software used at I.B.M. helps me collaborate in various areas: blogs, social bookmarking and tagging, participation in online communities to which I belong, and an alert system for to-do items.
I.B.M. uses a Facebook-like site called Beehive and a personalized internal directory called Profiles. These help build trust levels with peers in order to get a job done much faster, and they easily locate experts in a particular subject. I share and update big files with a file sharing system that cuts down on the back-and-forth of sending big presentations and video files.
Say someone asks to view a presentation you have done recently, and you decide to share it via an open “file sharing” space. Then, before you know it, strangers thank you for sharing that presentation, which they will be reusing themselves within their own projects. That kind of immediate impact would be unlikely through e-mail.
I use a couple of R.S.S./Atom feed readers, which have become not just another in-box, but my primary method of receiving notifications of content relevant to my work. They give me control of what I receive and when, something I couldn’t say when I was relying much more heavily on e-mail.
I am lucky to have the chance to be exposed to such a wide range of social software and collaborative tools at work. But what if your business does not have blogs or wikis or whatever else? What can you do to help repurpose the way you process your e-mail?
You can do something as simple as calling people instead of e-mailing them. If you work on the same floor, you can even walk over to their desks and talk to them!
You may have some other tools that could host some of those conversations. Mainly, it is about a change of habits, about finding new ways to be much more productive with less effort, so that we can focus on more complex tasks.
Anyone can create a blog or a wiki, or a Twitter account. Almost everyone can use instant-messaging tools at work to get things going. So why not start exploring the possibilities and figure out which conversations you can move out of your e-mail system?
THINK about whether my experience could work for you. Think about how to use social networking tools to eliminate spam and to avoid repeatedly answering the same question from many different people. These tools can also save you from an accumulation of online newsletters that never get read, and from those incessant project status reports that clutter many in-boxes.
E-mail can become extinct, if not repurposed altogether, even at big
Most people know how to perform and produce as an individual. Not many knows how to collaborate as a team.
If you are interested in knowing about how to collaborate anywhere as a team regardless of the distance, the technology and the project culture. Please contact us at service [at] collaboration360 [dot] com. We have a white paper ready for your reading.