It’s time for another confession: I’ve begun to really dislike email.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE email. For letters. And when there’s not a better way to communicate.
But for work, email has reached a new low. Most of the time there are more effective ways for us to communicate, including good old-fashioned face-to-face conversations.
During the Visual Literacy Coetail course I began analyzing the way we use email at work. The most important emails I send have to do with curriculum resources and professional learning for our school community.
“Be honest,” I said to one of the teams I work with. “Have you ever seen this?”
My team looked at the Google Document and shook their heads. I had shared it at least twice hyper-linked within an email.
Like many organizations, we have a lot of initiatives happening at our school. People are well-intentioned, but busy. If my purpose for sharing resources is to help colleagues and ultimately students, I clearly need a better way.
Many organizations and individuals have begun grappling with the soul-sucking nature of email. I began researching other strategies and tools I might be able to use.
Justin Rosenstein co-founded Asana, an application designed to help organizations work without email. In the clip below, he reflects on his prior work at Google and Facebook. “We felt … stymied … slowed down … by the friction and overhead of the coordination of our own teamwork,” he says.
He goes on to say that spending time doing ‘work about work’ such as reading and writing email takes energy and time away from what we really want to be working on.
No doubt this applies to many fields.
In this Fast Company piece, Berkun says:
“Email empowers the sender. They can put in your inbox whatever they like and as many times as they like (many receivers use filters and rules as countermeasures).
Email is a closed channel. There’s no way to see an e-mail if you are not on the ‘‘to’’ list, forcing work groups to err on the side of carpet bombing entire project teams, or companies. We all feel only a fraction of email has direct relevance to us as individuals. Email tends to bury people in FYI communication, messages unworthy of inboxes.
Email decays over time. If someone writes a great e-mail, an employee has to do something to preserve it. Otherwise it sits in an inbox, hidden from new employees. Over time, that organizational knowledge fades away.”
Instead of email, WordPress uses blogs. (Of course they do!)
Berkun writes that at WordPress information normally sent in email is simply posted on community blogs.
“If you care about that project, you follow the blog. If you don’t, you don’t,” says Berkun.
Next Step: Move ‘Great Resources’ to Public Blog Format.
So I decided to experiment. If my emails are clogging up inboxes or being relegated unread into an email curriculum file, they aren’t doing anyone any good. In fact, they may have the unintended consequence of adding stress.
I’ve learned a blog’s power of categories and tags. When used well, categories serve as a blog’s table of contents and tags are the index. When I analyzed my emails, several categories emerged to provide the initial table of contents for a school resources blog.
I tried to envision a place where colleagues might go not only when they needed something, but a site with the potential to inspire and entice.
Designing another blog felt both overwhelming and exciting. I tried numerous WordPress templates until settling on one called the Motif theme. It seemed the best match for my purposes and a good place to “break down … raw information into delicious little chunks of visually relevant information that are easy on the eyes.”
Being aware of the way people read online also means keeping the site well organized with the just the right amount of text and white space. (No large blocks of words!)
During Coetail, I’ve gotten quite comfortable using Compfight for Creative Commons photos. I decided to take my learning further and follow Kim‘s recommendations regarding Creative Commons and Flicker, paying close attention to the interesting category.
While I love Compfight, this new path seems to greatly increase photo options.
You can see the new ‘work in progress’ blog here. I’ve populated it with several quick posts to play with tags and visuals and I’ll officially roll it out next week.
Now instead of emailing new resources or linking them to documents in Google Drive for teams, I’ll take a cue from Dan Pink: consolidate, and send weekly email teasers with highlights of new posts.
Here’s an example of an emailed newsletter from Dan Pink:
Colleagues can read them if they wish or simply delete the email. The blog will still be there and they can search it any time.
Of course, there will still be times when face-to-face communication isn’t an option and email is the most efficient path. However, it won’t be to share resources or professional learning options.
My hope is that by shifting these to a blog format I contribute in a some small way to a reduction in organizational email noise and clutter.
The new blog, of course, will still include the occasional cat video, especially if it’s in French and very clever.