Helpful tips for email productivity

I'm amazed at how poorly people communicate in the workplace. I blame much of this on email, where a lack of direct contact is coupled with a lack of accountability, and the fact that most people can't read or write for shit anyway, to form a seething clusterfuck of lost productivity and angry coworkers. So, gentle reader, I bring you:

Chris's helpful email tips

  1. Email is not instant messaging
    I don't want my inbox clogged with a dozen one-syllable responses from you that appear as soon as I reply to your last grunt. If you want to have a stream-of-consciousness free-flowing conversation, IM me, or failing that, pick up the damn phone (PUDP)! If you get your feelings hurt because I didn't respond within seconds of your last message, you obviously have too much time on your hands. I'm busy. I've sometimes got more important things to do than wait for my email reader to chime with another nugget of wisdom from you.
  2. Use Reply-All wisely
    That button is sometimes useful for confirming with a whole group that you read and are dealing with a message. Don't use it to A) Let the whole group of people know that you really are busy. or B) Have an IM conversation with another reply-all misuser that you feel the need to subject the whole group to. Again, PUDP. Got something especially sagacious from that side conversation? Feel free to send THAT to the group. Spare me your brainstorming session.
  3. Don't send long-ass messages with the subject "FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:RE:FW:FW:RE:[insert stupid shit here]"
    It's especially bad form to do this when your only comment is "See below" or "Read from bottom to top". For Fuck's sake people, if you don't have time to synopsize what it is that's important about this message, what makes you think I do? Moreover, am I supposed to read your mind to determine what it is I'm supposed to glean from this conversation that's changed hands two dozen times and is indented so far that I'm only seeing two words per line with a million angle brackets to their left?
  4. Don't use email lists as a management tool, for people or projects
    I'm sure it seems very progressive to you to have an 'open conversation' on issues or projects, but what you're really doing is ensuring that your 'team' will be confused about what they're supposed to be doing, while assuming that someone else is taking care of whatever needs to be done. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess what happens when everyone assumes that someone else is taking care of things. Furthermore, if you're a manager, you should be managing. You control the conversation. Delegate what needs to be done, communicate to the necessary parties and then report back to the group with a summary.
  5. Don't use 'we' when you really mean 'you'
    "We" aren't going to write a Perl script, and "We" aren't going to redesign the site and "We" aren't going to troubleshoot the server when you fuck something up. I am. "You" are going to thank me profusely afterward. Unless you're combing through the log files with me, "We" aren't doing shit. Use the inclusive pronoun when you are actually involved in whatever is going on, otherwise it should be "Can you help with this?" or "I seem to lack reading comprehension abilities, can you fix this?" And unless you're signing my paycheck, you really ought to be asking nicely and in a professional manner.
  6. Don't expect me to be impressed that you're emailing at all hours of the day and night
    It doesn't mean you're Employee of the Year. It means:
    1. You're an addict.
    2. You're an insomniac.
    3. You're that douchebag clicking away on his blackberry in the grocery checkout line.
    4. You're a sycophant trying to show everyone how hard you're working.
    5. All of the above

So if you skipped to the end, here's my email rant summed up in a short paragraph:

When in doubt, PUDP. Also, don't be an asshole.


I see two spoiled editors -- mentally about 5 years old -- sitting at their desks, red-faced pounding their fists on either side of their keyboards wondering WHY WHY WHY you haven't responded to their e-mails sent out just seconds ago.
I also see one of the two said editors deciding that since you are incapable of responding to e-mail within 15 seconds that he can create a video that includes a close up of his tonsils.
Yes, e-mail is ruining the world!!!!! Ahhhhhhhh!