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Is email dead?

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2nd Dec 2014
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We know you might have come to this via a news bulletin, but nevertheless, read on.

It is now 43 years since the first ever email was sent. The technology that is now part of our day-to-day lives has moved on remarkably in this time and has completely transformed how we interact in both our professional and personal lives. However, aside from the development of more user-friendly interfaces, email really hasn’t changed very much in all those years.

If you speak to anyone today about email you will inevitably get a sigh and some kind of complaint about how much of their day it sucks up or how returning to work after a week off means battling through an overflowing inbox. So how have we become slaves to something that stifles our productivity and has become such a drain on business resources?

Research conducted by University of Loughborough in 2011 showed that it takes an average of 64 seconds for an individual to recover their thoughts after being distracted by an email. From this, the research estimated that email, a resource that is widely regarded as 'free', actually costs companies between £5,000 and £10,000 per employee per year in reduced productivity.

The biggest problem with email is that it doesn’t allow individual users to choose the information and conversations they want to be part of. Next time you look at your inbox take a moment to see just how many of the messages you actually needed, how many you were simply copied into and how many you deleted before even reading them. Is it any wonder that your productivity is being hampered?

So, rather than continue to be a slave to email, what can be done to take back control of your own day? Here are three top tips:

  • Move internal communications off email: Next time you’re about to send an email to somebody in your office, stop and ask yourself why. For teams that are working together on a project, there are often several ways of communicating that are much better than email. Real-time conversation (either face-to-face or using alternative software) is much better for inspiring creativity, while email creates a disconnected flow of information that can lead to problems of version control when several people are working on one document.

  • Move your to-do list out of email: So many people prioritise and organise their day around what is in their inbox, which can cause ongoing distraction from the important tasks in hand. Email was never designed for this purpose, and there are several simple techniques and applications that are much more effective.

  • Establish a routine to deal with email: Every day there will be hundreds of distractions competing for your attention, so it is important to establish a routine and set a few times per day when you will check your inbox and decide where to focus your attention. Try not to fall into the trap of reading every single email that lands in your inbox, but instead learn to identify the ones that will actually impact what it is you are trying to achieve now and put the others aside until you have more time for them.

Thanks to the rising popularity of the many cloud-based workspaces there is a trend emerging that is reducing the unnecessary 'noise' that is so strongly associated with email. These platforms bring together people and projects to create conversations that actually drive the project forward, ensuring each team member has the documents, files, information and resources that are relevant to them. Crucially, these flexible platforms empower people to choose, manage and control what is important to them, putting each individual back in control of their own working day.

Bostjan Bregar is the co-founder and CEO of The 4th Office, a structured cloud workspace that enables teams to collaborate remotely. For further information or a free trial for your business go to www.4thoffice.com

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