I argued in an earlier post on ack/nak why the phone was better than email.
I return to you now with the news that email is good for nothing but pain, suffering and embarassment, and should be avoided at all costs.
Principal contributor to this decision is the Treo650, which provides a near-continuous stream of email from our corporate Exchange server to me 24x7. Not to terribly long ago, I thumbed my way into a world of hurt one morning whilst still sipping my first cup of coffee in my bathrobe. Huge mistake. Other mistakes followed. In an uncharacteristic moment of clarity, I decided I could make the pain stop by simply. . .not. . .responding. . .via. . .email.
So you should avoid writing email all costs. Reading is still required. If you absolutely, positively have to write an email, for gawd's sake, make it one or two lines, don't use a salutation or a closing, and in no circumstances whatsoever should you actually "sign" it with your name.
The best advice I've had all year is to reply to questions about projects with the following:
"I own it, I'm working on it, I'll have it done by (x date)."See how elegant that is? It's the ultimate email-chain-killer. It lets the air out of flame-baiters faster than (insert favorite scatalogical analogy here).
Sure, you can read all the b-school tips you want on how to manage email overload if that'll make you happier. But the cleverer reader will take my advice and just beat that delete button like it owes you money.
Here's the proof-point you're looking for. When was the last time you got a lenghty email from any of the "important" types in your company that was more than one or two lines? Admit it, most of those folks show a near-mythic disregard for the use of capital letters and spelling, and if you're dealing with a real macha, they even dispense with punctuation. These are the missives of the great and good, and they look like they were typed with their elbows while on a two-day bender.
That's the style you should shoot for. It's working for me. Pick up the damn phone and talk to people. Once your colleagues realize that they can't bait you into a seven paragraph thesis on meaningless topics, they'll figure out that they really should talk to you instead of watching their inbox like a Nascar fan waiting for the next big pile-up at Daytona.