Can We Free Ourselves From Email?
And a Reset
The last time I sat down to write my first newsletter of 2021 was about 12 hours before the Capital Riot started. The next day it felt awkward and out of place to write about working together when so much of my country seemed focused on tearing the other side apart.
After some thought, I came back to continue this project because I realized the only way to improve anything is to work together. The concept of working together can be as simple as reaching out to a co-worker or building a company-wide innovation plan.
If we can figure out how to build better organizations that support people today, we’re improving life for ourselves, our co-workers, and our local communities on the smallest scale.
That kind of change is deeply personal and impactful.
If you want to be part of the solution, part of a community figuring out how we can all work better together, this is the newsletter for you.
I hope you join me and invite your friends to explore, collaborate and build community.
In the future, this newsletter will be bi-weekly and feature topics related to what I think we need to build better organizations: leadership, freedom, and humanity. Check out my first newsletter for more information on that.
📧Freedom From Email
This weekend I vowed to take a break from work. I'm almost at the end of an HR system conversion, and my brain is rapidly approaching maximum capacity. I needed a weekend disconnect badly!
Instead of working or stressing about work, I spent the weekend bagging up leaves...in February. Having moved here from Ohio, where I would be shoveling snow in February, I'll take the early autumn weather any day, but still, it felt weird to be using the leaf blower in late February.
I found myself just as busy as I am on weekends where I work but with a lower stress level. It’s not that I didn't think about work; after all, I did find time to read about workforce planning (yes, I am an organization and people nerd). I think the difference is that I was actually thinking without the clutter of pings, emails, text messages, and phone calls.
Right now, email seems to be the worst. It’s all too easy to fall into the thinking that an empty inbox equals productivity and a job well done- which is complete crap. Answering emails does not help us do the deep, impactful work that matters. Instead, in my case, at least, it just adds to the stress level because it will never be done.
My instincts were confirmed when I read the article "Email is Making Us Miserable" by Cal Newport this week. If you aren't already familiar with Newport's work, you should start with this article where he succinctly lays out why email is so bad for us:
It creates, for example, a tortuous cycle that increases the amount of work on our plate while simultaneously thwarting, through constant distraction, our ability to accomplish it effectively. - Cal Newport
0️⃣Fighting Inbox Zero
That quote makes a lot of sense to me because I unwittingly end up in that torturous cycle. I get to inbox zero, celebrate, and then watch with mounting horror as the responses to my emails pile back up in my inbox.
Giving our co-workers and teams the freedom to step away from email is important if we want real, impactful work to be done. The freedom to step away from email means that we don't expect responses within 15 minutes or late at night or on the weekends. It means we actually know what an "emergency" is.
So how to do it?
In Cal's article, he suggests several methods to combat these issues, including office hours and using project management software to track individual status, which, hopefully, reduces the number of pings and email follow-ups.
I love those suggestions, but they take time....what do you think we can do today or tomorrow to cut back on the email monster?
What I'm Listening To, Reading, and Watching This Week
🎧If you're curious about how companies like Amazon work, listen to this podcast from a16z, Amazon Narratives: Memos, Working Backwards from Release, and More:
📺Schitt's Creek. Need I say more?