Culture / How To... / Just For Fun / April 9, 2007

5 Ways to Restore Email Sanity


Are you ever frustrated when you open your email inbox? Do you find yourself constantly battling not just spam but also superfluous emails from people you know? Jason Fry of the Wall Street Journal offers 5 ways to restore email sanity:

  1. A Numbers Tax. You get to send an internal email to four people. That’s it. Any more than that, each recipient costs you a quarter….If that’s too radical, how about an indicator of how many people the email has been sent to? This would let me route anything with more than 25 recipients straight to my trash.
  2. Would You Say What You Typed? I stumbled across a blog entry from Lynn Gaertner-Johnston with a great test for whether you should be emailing something. She imagines an employee stopping by a manager’s office a dozen times a day asking for approvals and saying things like “I’m telling you this so I know you are aware of it in case there is trouble ahead.” Not many people actually do that in person, thank goodness. But lots of us do it via email, and most of those emails are pointless, dysfunctional or both.
  3. CC Reform. Once upon a time, being CC’d on something meant you needed to know it but didn’t need to respond. Now, it tends to mean you’re about to be bored senseless by a long string of messages you didn’t need to receive.
  4. The Are You Sure? Button. We need these added to at least two parts of the email experience. The first one is the BCC field — you haven’t lived until you BCC somebody for underhanded political reasons, only to have that person reply-all and immediately reveal that you’re a conniving weasel. There’s no upside to such BCCs, and considerable downside. Forward the message instead….The other place we need an “Are You Sure?” button is when hitting Reply All. If you’ve ever been trapped in clueless Reply Alls to a list and the inevitable aftershock of people Replying All to demand that people stop Replying All, enough said.
  5. The Withdraw Button. This would also be a boon to luckless workers caught, like dolphin in tuna nets, in aggravating social emails that just keep on going. For five years I’ve kept Outlook from deleting one of my favorite office emails — a June 2002 one that began with a picture of a friend’s new puppy and a request for suggested names. (I know, I know.) That burst of overenthusiasm touched off an overload spiral of appreciations of the puppy’s cuteness, suggested names and pet memories — until one co-worker struck a blow for all those suffering in silence: “How about naming the puppy ‘Remove Me From This List’?”

I thought about emailing the guy to tell him that he wrote a hilarious article, but it didn’t pass rule #4–the are you sure test. I think you could come up with just as good a list of tips for blogging.

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