For the last few years Christine and I have taken New Year’s Day to talk about our goals for the upcoming year. While I didn’t really write about them for 2014 I did outline my 2013 goals. It was a pretty long list, and I tried to hold myself accountable by writing up my progress during the year.
Instead of creating another long list for 2015 I want to think about one big idea around which I can focus my year. That idea is Less Email.
Now I’m not just falling into a “do more with less” cliche. Looking at my three (!) Gmail accounts I easily sent almost 20,000 emails last year. However I know one of the things I’ve need to improve this year is communication and engagement with my most important professional and personal connections. How do you communicate more but send less email? Doesn’t less email mean more meetings?
Top of my list is to talk more. I tend to default to email for too many conversations that could be handled either in person or by phone. Email makes it too easy to just shoot from the hip a quick response even when an honest, open talk would be better received and more productive. Email is a fire and forget missle and too often can miss it’s target. That means more direct speaking which is only going to help build relationships and the responsibility is on me to keep those additional meetings focused and productive.
At work there are a couple of technologies we’re implementing that will help me spend less time in my Inbox. We’re all on Google Apps so that means chat and audio/video Hangouts are available to all of us. Quick questions can go to chat and for longer conversations I’ll start reaching out by video conference. If I can’t get out of my office to talk to someone face to face we’ll bridge the distance with video call.
The commitment to “in person” communication is going to require more discipline on my part. With my travel schedule it’s too easy to skip one on one meetings, or to default to an email check-in from the road. There’s no reason for that except poor planning so unless I’m in the air I’m going avoid clicking for “Reply All” and grabbing my phone first.
The second app that we’ve only started to use at Rightside is Slack. Slack is something I introduced the Enom engineering team to and it’s spread to our other groups, as well as the rest of Rightside’s IT team. Slack channels have be established for most of our groups and I think we’ll both expand our use to include more archives but also creating channels for cross-team projects. What I love about Slack is that everyone is able to jump into and out of conversations as well as read back through a channel for context and direct link to our Google Drive documents. It’s easier to manage to long email threads with big distribution lists and you call “@” a team member to call their attention to specific action items.
Away from work I’m going to follow many of the same rules. I’ve started experimenting with new apps like Weave for making new connections to meet at events and offline. I’m going to make more phone calls to family and friends and encourage them to reach me by Google Hangout or Skype instead of email. I’ll clean out my email newsletter subscriptions so I’m spending so much time purging my Inbox every day. Twitter and Flipboard is a better place to find great links and reads, as are Medium and the WordPress Reader feed.
I can’t guarantee I’ll send fewer emails in 2015 but I do believe being mindful of making a personal direct and as often as possible face to face connection, including video, will mean a lot more success in business and friendships. If you want to reach me by Skype I’m at sbanfield and Google Hangouts at email@example.com.