Engineering versus email: the first solution

02Anthony Haynes writes: During some recent training in an engineering company I asked each person I was working with, ‘What’s the biggest area of anxiety for you with regard to communication?’

The biggest problem

One area emerged overwhelmingly: email. A whole cluster of concerns emerged in this area: how to write emails; how to get responses — especially timely ones; how to manage email; and, in particular, how to get anything else done besides dealing with one’s bulging inbox.

That last point explains the title of this post. Email, of course, facilitates many aspects of engineering work. These days one could hardly do without it. But people don’t choose to go into engineering for the pleasure of managing an inbox.

Too often, the demands of managing email frustrate attempts to get on with the real work — the business of design, construction, maintenance, repair and so on.

An email strategy

Some years ago I noticed these concerns arising in my own work, so I devised a strategy to deal with them.

By and large, it’s worked: email is rarely a source of anxiety for me. I dare say the strategy wouldn’t work for everyone — circumstances differ, people differ — but I thought I’d share it because it might work for some.

Over the next few posts I’ll outline a series of steps, one at a time. I should here allude to Dr Johnson’s wise and famous saying, that we need ‘more frequently to be reminded than informed’. Most of the steps involved fall into the seems-obvious-except-it-can’t-be-because-if-it-was-more-people-would-do-it category.

Step I

Commit, starting now, to unsubscribing.

If you’re like most people, you’ll find that over the years you’ve subscribed to all sorts of things. They include: things that seemed interesting at the time; things for which you ticked the wrong preference box; and things that might be interesting, if only you could find the time to actually read them.

You might well find that you have scores of such subscriptions.

They destroy productivity in two ways:

  1. there’s the time spent looking at the email;
  2. there’s the time that it takes to regain your concentration on whatever task you were doing before you were interrupted.

The latter has probably the larger effect.

So: unsubscribe from emails. Ruthlessly.


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