In 1971, it appears, the first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson.
Things have been going downhill ever since.
If you’ve been overwhelmed by email you are not alone. And if it makes you feel any better, it’s not in any way your fault.
Even computer wizards (who are adept at filtering, automating, and outsourcing) are drowning in email.
For example, people like Cal Newport, an MIT grad, and more recently a computer science professor at Georgetown.
More significantly, Cal Newport has written several books about productivity in the modern world (e.g. Deep Work).
Recently, he wrote A World Without Email.
It’s about how many people are discovering how to get rid of email in the workplace. Completely.
What do they use to replace email? Well, it’s really a story I recommend you let Cal Newport explain.
But, if you want the executive summary of his book, it boils down (mostly) to three things:
- Use automated scheduling tools to let people book appointments with you (e.g. Calendly, Acuity).
- Have everyone who works together meet in short weekly meetings (at a minimum) to report on their progress, get feedback and accountability.
- Use Kanban-style task boards to make the progress of work visible (and use the discussion feature in those task cards to replace whatever back and forth communication is required after implementing the first two recommendations).
Lawyers are getting more hip to the idea of Kanban boards. I’ve used Trello and know other lawyers who like using it.
Bottom line: you can’t outrun email.
It’s coming in too fast to filter or streamline by regular productivity methods.
That’s why it’s time for radical solutions like the ones Cal Newport’s book recommends.