Photo by Efe Kurnaz on Unsplash

Why Do You Have Email?

Lots of people think that Email — like breathing — is essential and there is no way of getting around it. I disagree.

You can absolutely choose to abandon it completely. More and more people are doing just that. Not me. I love email. My inbox is a delight to navigate and a great place to get shit done. The difference between me and folks who say they hate email is that I know exactly what to do with this epic communication tool.

People who don’t use it correctly, drive me bananas.

SPOILER ALERT: BIG RANT AHEAD

There was a post by Adam Grant a while back, I absolutely loved. He said he doesn’t understand people who do not answer email or complain about email. He said it’s like if you were walking down the hall, would you not say hello to somebody just because too many people are saying hello to you in the hall?

Now as you all know, there’s not a ton of subjects that I get passionate about in this way, but I have to say email is probably one of them. I think it’s a total bullshit cop out when people say, oh, I can’t deal with email. It’s too hard, there’s just too much of it. I just don’t even look at it.

I’m sorry if some of you reading this still fall into that category, but I don’t think that’s the case. You’ve been around my content enough.

But if you are still making those excuses, you need to throw up a flag really quick because I want to help. In fact, just send me an email (GASP) oao@lessdoing.com and I’d be happy to send you my InBox Zero course for FREE.

But I digress.

It’s so obnoxious to me for somebody to not have any form of response to an email. Now I’m not saying you have to respond to everyone in your emails, but a few months ago, an acquaintance of mine who is very, very well known in the business world, made a personal email introduction for me to another really, really well-known person in the business world. A personal introduction.

So I wrote and the guy never responded.

About a month later I followed up and the guy never responded. No response at all. And I have to say, this has nothing to do with me feeling jilted. I just think it’s completely unacceptable to exist in the business world that we live in and to have an email address, (which is a choice, by the way). And not use it for what it is there for; as a communication tool.

If you don’t want to deal with email, don’t have email. But don’t have it and ignore it. It’s rude.

I find it completely unacceptable because what that says is that either you’re an asshole or you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing and you shouldn’t be running any operation.

I don’t care how much money somebody is making. There is no excuse for that kind of thing.

So again, if you decide that email’s overwhelming, create an autoresponder. If you decide that email is really just not your thing, don’t have an email address.

Oh and I’m just getting started…

Next…. I need to vent about the time-honored tradition of having somebody manage your inbox. A lot of people when they’re looking for that great executive assistant, look for somebody who can manage their inbox.

I think that that is a patently bad way to approach both communication and leadership.

First of all, you don’t need more people. You need a better system. You need to get better at making decisions. Your inbox is the perfect place to practice.

You really just need to make three decisions in your inbox.

Deal with it

Delete it

Defer it

So subrogating responsibility to somebody else is a bad idea. First, your inbox should not be unmanageable to the point that you need someone else to manage it.

Second, it’s not good work to give to another person. It’s dehumanizing work. You wouldn’t have somebody walk down the hall with you and say hello to people as they passed you on your behalf. That would be gross.

You have to look further upstream. There are probably lots of things that are going through your inbox that shouldn’t be there in the first place. For example, you should never be sending email to people that work with you internally. Use a different tool like Slack or Voxer.

Your inbox should be filled with interesting and exciting things; things that show you opportunities. It should be a box of opportunities. Why would you want to hand that over to somebody else? And if that’s really the case, then you don’t need to have email at all.

There’s nothing wrong with telling somebody to email your assistant. There are plenty of very, very successful people in the world who have never had an email or an email address.

Why do people think this approach is so bad? To just say to somebody, “Get in touch with my assistant, he’ll relay the message and we’ll communicate that way. It’s so much better than having somebody emailing you, thinking they are communicating with YOU, only to discover they are not.

I promise you it will forever change the way that people communicate with you. There is a trust that is broken when you do that. I realize that this approach is going to piss off a lot of people. But how you handle (or don’t) handle your email says a lot about how you make decisions and it has a ripple effect across all your daily engagements.

So my suggestion is simple, if you want to have somebody else manage your email for you, you shouldn’t have email at all.