Email Bankruptcy: Definition
July 5, 2011 5 Comments
Email bankruptcy seems an odd name to call this topic – it’s more like email overload or overwhelm.
This is the first of two blog posts I’m dedicating to Email Bankruptcy. This post defines it – the other post called Email Bankruptcy: Solutions gives options to avoid it or how you can recover from a very large… inbox.
Do you have unanswered email from last month? How about a few months ago? Last year? I’ve talked with people who have over 1,500 unopened, unsorted email in their inbox.
Email bankruptcy is a decision to delete all or a majority of your email messages. By declaring email bankruptcy you have to decide if you will:
- Delete only some messages (from everyone who is not a client for example)
- Delete all messages (junk or legitimate)
- In the worst case situations to close your email account
It’s the equivalent of raising a white flag and surrendering to an unmanageable volume of email.
During an email bankruptcy you should also send a message to everyone explaining you have deleted their message. This unfortunately flips the problem around – now, if the person who has been waiting still needs a response they have to send yet another email. Exhausting!
Impact On Your Brand / Your Reputation:
Email bankruptcy should not be taken lightly – its impact on your reputation can be severe. Consider – you are suggesting you can’t manage your time or responsibilities well, or that the people who’ve emailed you aren’t important enough for you to read their email message.
Is this the reputation you want to reinforce for you and your business? Are you destined to do the same thing Stanford University technology professor Lawrence Lessig did in one of the first and most publicly identified examples of email bankruptcy?
Is Email Bankruptcy A Helpful Solution?
I don’t think so.
It’s really not a volume problem – it’s a work flow problem… volume only makes the problem more obvious. Weather you send and receive 50 or 500 email, you need to find a process to manage your volume.
Instead of email bankruptcy, put a plan in place that focuses on best practices and solutions that will work for you. And, it’s likely the plan that works for me will not be perfect for you – we are all individuals.
Your solution will contain elements from two or more of the following:
- Good email etiquette and writing structure
- Efficiently using your email management system (like Outlook)
- Reducing how many newsletters, alerts and blogs you receive
- Use Folders, Alerts and Rules… three of my favourites
Whatever you solution, email etiquette is a good place to start.
Email Etiquette Example:
If you are a manager who chronically Cc…’s more people than need to, don’t be surprised if the people who work with you do the same – and therefore fill up your inbox with irrelevant messages. Consider that 10 unnecessary email each day from 5 staff is an extra 50 useless email you have to sort through each day.
Declaring email bankruptcy is likely only going to provide a temporary solution unless you can identify the root of the problem.
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