Below was my response to the topic, on Twitter:
— Con Wiebrands كوب (@flexnib) May 20, 2013
Of course, you can’t make a statement like that without others asking what you mean.
The bane of my professional life? Is it really that bad?
To be fair, having access to email on my mobile devices has nothing really to do with the reason I find email so irritating. I have a work-supplied iPhone and a personal iPad, and I have access to my work and personal email addresses on both devices.
I think I have mastered any compulsion to check my work email at any and all hours. This has actually been helped by having a mobile phone. I can successfully tell myself that once I’ve left the office, email can wait until the next day to be dealt with. If there is anything really all that urgent, I can be called or texted on my mobile. (This has happened before.)
I can generally resist checking my work email on weekends, and when I’m on holidays, I actually delete my work account from my iPad so there is no temptation at all. I don’t tamper with my work email on my phone, as it is, after all, a work phone. But I can keep the phone at arm’s length and thus resist the temptation to check while on holidays. I was chatting with one of our Deputy Vice Chancellors at a work do the other day, and he said he does not check his work email while he is on holiday, either. Otherwise, what sort of holiday is it, if you’re constantly reading your email and worrying about what’s going on in the office? Indeed.
No, what I find most irritating about email, apart from the sheer volume of the stuff, is the quality of many of the messages I receive.
From a short Harvard Business Review post “Write an email that people will read“:
- Get straight to the point.
- Keep it brief.
- Write a short but informative subject line.
I don’t mind long, meandering emails from friends and family (all these go into my personal email account) but I really don’t have the time (or the patience) to read very wordy things at work.
If your email is about a webpage, include the URL. (Don’t leave the reader guessing, or force them to have to do some work to find out which webpage you’re referring to. This is something so simple to do, and yet people fail to do this all the time. Drives me bonkers.)
If you’re going to have to write a long, convoluted missive with background and history because you think I won’t otherwise understand your request, how about giving me a call first, to tell me the background, so I don’t have to decipher your email? (and you won’t have to spend 45 minutes composing it?)
If you’re commenting on a document, please don’t write your comments to me in an email. PUT THE COMMENTS IN THE DOCUMENT. Word processors enable you to put your comments and edits directly in the document so it’s easy to follow what you mean.
Don’t copy all and sundry into the conversation. (I don’t want to be involved in long discussions while you’re trying to figure out something. And ask yourself, would it be easier to just pick up the phone or walk across the room to like, talk about it?)
Keep emotion, sarcasm, rudeness out of your email. People don’t always read your email as you intend it to be read. In fact they can often misread your off-the-cuff statements. Also, you can’t be sure that your perfectly crafted, ever so witty, snide diatribe about your colleague isn’t going to be forwarded on people you wouldn’t expect (or want) to read it…
Do make the time to read and respond to your work email at least once a day.
Don’t forward on the cute kitten email to me. (This doesn’t happen often to me as I normally politely ask the sender not to send things like that again.)
If it’s urgent, don’t email me. Call me. (Nothing more irritating than having someone come to see you or call you an hour after they sent you an email because they want to know, did you read their email yet? Why didn’t you just do that in the first place?)
Yes, I am a curmudgeon.
On a mobile device it can be all too easy to fire off a quick reply to something, and have your email full of typos and grammatical errors. I’ve been guilty of this. I think that’s why most of us iPad/iPhone users leave the “sent from my iPad/iPhone” signature on. The idea is that you the reader of the email may be a bit more forgiving of any mistakes the message may contain, because the email was written while the sender was out and about. I try to slow down, stop, reread and check whatever I’m about to send on my mobile device.
As they say: #firstworldproblems.