Use e-mail for what e-mail is best at! And therefore reduce the e-mail overload

Posted by Pierre Khwanad on March 29th, 2010 at 5:22 pm

When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail:

 Oh well! We have the hammer, and in this case it is called "e-mail." We have it and we tend to use it all the time. E-mail is easy. It is quick. It costs virtually nothing (if we are only looking at the hard costs). In addition, we can say whatever we want in an e-mail and not get interrupted by someone else’s point of view (can be rewarding but dangerous). So no wonder why we are so quick to use it in almost any situation.

Blinded by the ease and speed of e-mail, among other factors, we tend to forget that e-mail is not the only tool for communicating. This is a list of some of the tools that can largely benefit us when used appropriately in conjunction with e-mail. What do you think these tools are ideal for and not so ideal for? Use this opportunity to jot down your answers and then compare with the answers below:

Table 1

  Ideal For Not so ideal for
Instant Messaging    
Phone Calls    
Web Conferencing    
Virtual Worlds    
Video Conferencing    


While there is not one answer, and no right or wrong answer, when it comes to how best to utilize these tools, here are some suggested answers as a starting point:

Table 2

  Ideal For Not so ideal for
E-mail Factual Emotional
Instant Messaging Quick Long
Phone Discussion Seeing visuals
Web conferencing Seeing visuals Interactions/seeing people
Virtual Worlds Interactions Complex/emotional
Video conferencing Seeing people Requiring equipment
In-Person Complex/Emotional Remote people


Let us add a few more tools to the mix

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • SharePoint

Blogs, wikis, Microsoft SharePoint, and other information and document sharing tools, can tremendously help take the load off of e-mail. One of the examples that I give in our workshops relate to how blogs for instance (in this case, we are referring to internal blogs) can help the knowledge experts within the team or organization answer important questions once instead of time after time, and make these answers accessible to everyone within the team or organization. E-mail is not the best way to leverage and share knowledge.

Let us start using e-mail for what e-mail is best at! Before you write your next e-mail, stop for a second and ask the question: Should this be an e-mail or not?

Related Resources

Take the E-mail and Social Media survey:

Join me at ad:tech in San Francisco at the Inbox Zero session:

Check out The Accomplishing More With Less Workbook:

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