This is the eighth in a series inspired by my friend Ross Sturley’s Ten Things to Cut in a Recession Before You Cut Your Marketing (presented in recent Construction News marketing e-newsletters and on his Chart Lane website).
Number eight: “Cut mail”
In Going postal, Ross turns his attention on the monetary and environmental waste involved in sending bits of paper (and other objects) by post and courier.
I spent much of the 2000s working for BIW Technologies, a UK software business which developed web-based construction collaboration technologies to replace conventional, largely paper-based communications. We undertook various studies that showed how using electronic document management could dramatically cut printing and postage/courier expenses, often with a corresponding improvement in the time taken to process, manage, store, retrieve and re-use information – for example, to get drawings reviewed and approved, or to create the post-project Health & Safety File. I am, thus, a strong advocate of the use of electronic communication to replace processes previously based on the expensive and time-consuming exchange of paper. (Disclosure: BIW is a client of pwcom 2.0).
Ross points out that a lot of post could usefully be replaced by email. However, I am also increasingly averse to the time-consuming exchange of sometimes lengthy emails and their attachments (I’ve debated the email argument repeatedly on ExtranetEvolution.com). Along the way, I have taken on board social media writer Clay Shirky‘s view that there is no such thing as ‘information overload’ only filter failure.
Rather than being at the mercy of “push” emails, I have recently been unsubscribing from various email newsletters and other email-based communications. I have also used the rules feature in Outlook and Gmail’s filters to redirect some email, and am drawing information from other online sources that I can also filter:
- RSS – probably my favourite Web 2.0 tool, RSS allows me to subscribe to the ‘feeds’ from numerous magazines, newspapers, organisations and even individuals who used to send me regular emails. I have one place – an RSS reader (mine is built into my favourite Flock browser) – where I can see who has updated, and in most cases I can quickly read a summary and decide if it’s something I need to read, or something I can disregard.
- Twitter – Too many emails are simple requests for information: an email address, a telephone number, a website URL. As a regular Twitter user, friends know they can often get this kind of information more quickly by sending me a Tweet than an email. Twitter can also be an effective ‘human’ search alerting me to news, articles, etc that people or organisations I follow have found interesting – but if that interest wanes, the ‘unfollow’ button gets pressed.
- Flickr, YouTube/Vimeo, SlideShare – Don’t send me a photo, video or presentation. Upload the file to the relevant platform and let me share it there.
- Documents, drawings – Within organisations, you can share files via intranets, within teams you can use extranets or online file-sharing/collaboration workspaces – many of which are free to use and can also act as file back-up locations in case your own computer gets damaged or lost (eg: Box.net, Adrive, Dropbox, Huddle). Rather than sending draft documents back and forward, you might also consider using a Wiki, Google Groups, or swapping observations in discussion forums. For AEC projects, the drawing sharing tools range from industry-strength collaboration platforms like BIW to “simply simple” solutions like the just-launched Woobius (disclosure: Woobius is also a client of pwcom 2.0) or Basecamp.
- Doodle, Timebridge – One of the most email-hungry processes is fixing meeting dates/times with multiple contacts. I was introduced to Doodle by some industry colleagues last year and now use this regularly to fix dates for meetings, but if you want integration with email calendars too have a look at Timebridge.
What other (e)mail strategies could help you manage your workload better? Let me know.
Coming soon: Number nine: “Spring clean”