Ann Baldwin – You have email … and it’s junk

The trouble with email is that it’s a pot-pourri. Today, mine included: a reminder about the English ICA conference; some woman offering me sex – I think that’s what she was offering; a client rearranging a meeting date; an offer to change my identity legally with new credit cards and social security number; and a contact sending me and everyone else whose email address he has a list of odd responses given on ‘Family Fortunes’, such as ‘question – name a bird with a long neck, answer – Naomi Campbell’.

Those of us who have been in business for some time can always spot the nonsense at 50 paces if it comes in an envelope. ‘Important message’, ‘You’ve been chosen’, ‘Mr S A Bladwyn’ written on the outside and I’m winging the letter into the waste bin unopened. It has been years since many senior people tackled their own post. An astute PA will have been discarding, delegating and otherwise disposing of all but the most important items – until the arrival of email.

Many businesses don’t seem to have a protocol for their internal email, so an important board meeting date might be buried beneath such gems as: ‘rowing machine for sale, used once, £50 o.n.o’.

As people become more stressed they fly like moths to the flame of any activity that can be accomplished with minimum thinking. They are able to announce proudly that they have cleared their emails. If the same people tried to win our admiration by telling us that they had just spent the morning personally clearing out every item in their in-tray, we would be lining them up for the doctor – or demotion.

So before you start the thrice – or more – daily trudge through your email, stop and think what your job is really about, focus on the important issues and delegate your email as far down the line as you can.

On the other hand, there is good news about this wonder communication tool: you’ll soon notice that the telephone doesn’t ring so much any more.

Ann Baldwin, FCA, is a management trainer and conference speaker.

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