<update:> Colleagues correctly complained that the 4pm email barrage when I finally synched my mail was just delayed dumping. It’s a good point. The idea is not to just hold off on sending email but actually cut back on email and engage in other ways.
Therefore, I’m updating the Daily email limitation to only be able to send 20 emails (rather than the usual 50 or so) at the now 3:30pm sync. </update>
I started this experiment when working at Nokia with teams spread across 10 time zones. It was too easy to slip into email as the only way to engage with people. It paid immediate dividends in greater connections (with a much higher phone bill).
In moving to American Express and a team all in one time zone, I thought email would be easier to manage. But the expectation of synchronous communication made email an even more constant problem. So I put in even more strict controls.
Goal of experiment:
- To remove the temptation to live in email and instead connect with people.
- No sending email until a set time each day. Currently, I am using 4pm.
- Calendar invites–so that people know if you will attend a meeting or not
- Phone, text, group messaging, IM are all allowed. Key is to get out of email.
- Make sure people know of the rule so they don’t get offended if you don’t respond.
- I tried nothing from 9-3, but it meant that I started the email deluge. Don’t be tempted to create a morning window.
- <shift> + <F9> on Outlook is your friend. You can sync just you inbox and formulate replies without synching the things in your Outbox. Working offline is critical.
- Positive: Greater engagement. If there is an important issue, forced to call.
- Positive: Removed toxicity. Having to wait to respond to an email provocation is hard but reduces tension.
- Positive: Dramatically reduced email volume. The less you send, the less you receive, Requires *not* judging your self-worth by the amount of email you receive.
- Positive: Don’t have that constant “there must be something interesting in my inbox feeling.”
- Negative: Requires maintaining inbox zero.
- Negative: Tends to dump a lot of email on colleagues at 4:01pm. Need to work to true the time.
This is something I have been doing for 3 years and can honestly say it has changed my whole approach to work. Continue.