People Suck at Email #9, Notifications

Turn off your email notifications.

Months ago I turned off all email notifications on my phone and years ago on desktop.

I haven’t looked back. Being interrupted by new email notifications gives email an undeserved sense of urgency. Email is not instant messaging, it’s not a phone call or a text message, it’s not an alarm bell or siren. Nothing bad is going to happen if you don’t read an email for 15 minutes or a few hours.

I highly recommend trying it out. Even though I don’t receive a huge amount of email, I feel like the amount of stress in my life has decreased by at least 33%.

Caveat: I no longer run system critical infrastructure of any sort. I realize these types of systems¬†do actually send “alarm bell” type emails. IMHO this is an inappropriate and antiquated use of email. If I was responsible for these sorts of systems, I would first look for an app to replace the alert emails. If that was completely impossible, I suppose turning off notifications would not be an option.

People Suck At Email #8, Order Lists

After a 9 month hiatus I’ve been inspired to write another installment of “people suck at email.” In preparation for this post I read over the previous entries in the series, I realized that the previous post have been written from my perspective. I didn’t want this to turn into “people suck at emailing me” or “ohryan sucks at email.” My intention was to provide some useful tips for email and netiquette, not just annoying whinging.

This installment of [email protected] concerns the use of ordered list. When I write an email containing multiple questions or comments on a general topic, I find that it can be useful to track each separate point with an order list. By doing this the recipient has an easy way to refer back to specific points in the body of my email, it beats inline replies and awkward sentences that start with “Re: XYZ” or “When you said Acme…” I also find that writing in point form has the side effect of helping me keep my emails short and sweet.

Of course, this system is completely useless if the recipient doesn’t honour the list items.

People Suck At Email VI, Topic Threads

This post is someone related to the part v in the series, subject lines.

The subject of the email should reflect the topic of the body. When replying to an email thread, you should only reply with content relevant to the main topic. Do not ask an unrelated question, or start writing about what you had for lunch.

If you have a new topic, compose a new email!

It may not be entirely obvious why this sucks, I’m going to go into a little more detail than usual. This sucks because it makes it impossible to reference the email in the future. When I do a search for something, I usually ignore subjects that don’t pertain to my search. If I give the thread a label based on the content, when I reference the label in the future I will probably think it has been incorrectly labeled. It also makes it more difficult to resolve the email thread. It is also more likely to spin out of control, especially if there are a lot of CC’er in on the thread (see: [email protected] IV).

Lay off that reply-all button.