The Bottom Line: 4 Reasons I Dislike Email

September 10, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor
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Life was so much different before email arrived on the scene. Phones rang, voice messages were left and listened to, and a desktop inbox was useful. Most of all, the standard workday included more hours…I’m sure of it. Today, you arrive at the office—or you check your smartphone or tablet immediately after getting your first cup of coffee at home—and before you know it, it’s noon. It’s what’s commonly called “computer time.” You’ve heard of light years? Well, in computer time, what you believe has been 15 minutes is actually one hour.

But I digress.

On the topic of email, it is true that it is a fast, efficient means of communicating while maintaining an e-paper trail. An email can be composed and sent at 3 a.m. without the fear of waking up the recipient. It enables one person to contact numerous people with the same message simultaneously. Yes, email has its advantages.

However, despite the convenience, at least four aspects of email just get on my nerves.

  1. Email is now a new delivery mechanism for fear. Ever click on that link from a person you thought you knew who was sending you a “cool site” only to find your computer is now infected with a virus that’s spreading to all of your contacts? If this isn’t something that frightens you, it should be.
  2. Email disrupts my planning instinct. I admit it: I am a planner. Today, planning isn’t necessary. Open email in the morning, and that pretty much wraps up the rest of the morning.
  3. “Didn’t you get my email about the 3 o’clock meeting?” If it’s 2:45 p.m., don’t rely on email to tell me I’m supposed to be somewhere at 3 p.m.
  4. Spam, spam, spam. Today’s filters throw much of it into the junk box, yet spending valuable time weeding the wheat from the chaff to ensure I don’t miss an important message continues to annoy me.

The bottom line is that humans are, by nature, communicators and, given a new way to communicate, they will use, misuse and overuse it. Wait a minute. Chances are you are reading this column as the result of receiving an email. OK, so maybe email isn’t so bad after all.

What are some of the aspects that bug you the most about email?

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Share Your Thoughts:

My absolute number one pet peeve: when someone sends an email that just says "Call me."

Yah, I call them a few things all right. ;-)

Oh yes, "Call me" is another pet peeve of mine! Or how about out of office messages that say: If you need immediate assistance, contact Jon. Am I supposed to know who Jon is and how to get ahold of him?

getting an email that simply says "thoughts?" that requires you to dig down the end of a neverr ending email thread (rope?) that began a month ago and trying to follow the moves of all the players; who originated the thread, who is answering who in each response and when was it sent. Usually it's something that has already been taken care of WAY before I get the "Any thoughts?" query.

How did I miss this one, O'Hern?!?!? You are absolutely correct about both the "read from the bottom to the top" AND the "Any thoughts?" ml

Let's talk about best practices--more useful than pet peeves. I've learned a lot from others about how to make my own emails more sortable, filterable, useful, and to the point. Some key practice:
- Start with "ACTION:" or "INFO:"
- Include date and time if notifying about a meeting, webinar, etc (often missing on emails I get from PMI or AFCEA)
- Include need date at end of subject, e.g. "(SUSP: COB 18 Sep 14)"
- At end of an ACTION email, state the action, e.g., "ACTION: By 18 Sep, provide inputs on how to mitigate this risk--post a document at this link, by 18 Sep-- (put hot link here--saves you from getting a bunch more emails)
- If an INFO email, try to avoid attachments by using a shared drive or COP or web-based medium to post the info you wish to share. Saves on email storage and also provides a way for others to re-share the linked info.

I have to say I agree! Putting some best practices into place has helped me tame the email tiger within me. One item that you didn't mention but that I learned during a "how to get your emails read" is to keep the word-count down: 59 words is optimum; never more than 100 words. I have to admit, that's hard to do!

P.S. I've saved your best practice list, and it's going up on the bulletin board next to my computer! m

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