Email is one of the most powerful communications tools ever created.  It’s also something I’ve grown to despise.

It’s not that email itself is inherently bad, or even that I hate the technology.  I don’t.   I do, however, hate the way many people use the technology.

Specifically, there are two things I observe frequently,  both of which drive me crazy:

  • Reply All.
  • Include everybody you can think of (and their mother) on the email.

Reply All is ok in some certain circumstances,  such as a group of friends having a group discussion.   It is great when everybody on the email thread has a vested interest in the conversation taking place.   It is NOT so great when only a small fraction of the people on the email have a vested interest in the conversation taking place – for those of us who don’t, it’s a waste of our time and energy.

Before you hit “reply all”,  ask yourself whether your response really pertains to everybody.    If not,  either reply to the sender or… remove the people who don’t need to see the reply.

Including everybody you can think of (and their mother) on an email is almost never a good idea.  This just indicates that you’re either incapable, or too lazy, to identify who needs to receive your message.   Do yourself,  and everybody who would have needlessly received your email, a favor and figure out who really needs to receive it.   You can always broaden the distribution later if someone was missed.  Due to the aforementioned “reply all” problem it’s much more difficult to reduce it.

Why does this bother me so much?  I practice GTD, and as part of that try (and usually fail) to get my inbox to 0 on a daily basis.  The behavior above contributes heavily to the failure as it requires me to have to spend a much longer period of time processing all of the email that came in during the day.   I’ve found that the majority of the email I receive I have no vested interest in.  It should be the other way around.