Tag Archives: The Tyranny of e-Mail

Do You Allow e-Mail to Control Your Day?

In the writing skills course that we teach at Creative Communication Network, entitled Write Your Way to Success, we discuss how to handle e-Mails.

Most of our participants claim they write e-Mails as more than 85% of the type of writing they do on the job.

Obviously, writing e-Mails is often responding to other e-Mails.

And, the question is, do you control e-Mail, or does e-Mail control you?

Do you remember the Southwest Airlines commercials a few years ago, where a woman dropped a cake because she heard a “bing” on her computer, announcing an e-Mail?  Or the one where the guy jumped over a cube wall to get to his e-Mail?  They were exaggerated events, but not too far from reality.

You likely remember the synopsis of the book that I presented at our First Friday Book Synopsis entitled The Tyranny of e-Mail by John Freeman (Scribner, 2009).  In that book, he presented a strong set of hints for writing and reading e-Mails, including scheduling a time to read e-Mails so that you concentrate on what you read and what you write, and so that you control e-Mail, instead of it controlling you.  If you missed the original presentation, you can find it on 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.

I thought this piece published on February 21, 2012 in the Harvard Business Review blog by Amy Gallo, entitled “Stop Email Overload,” was also provacative in the same sense.  Click here to read the entire article.

Think about some of these principles.  How much more productive would you be if you dictated when and how you went through your e-Mail?  What if you decided how e-Mail fit into your day instead of jumping to check it everytime your computer beeped to tell you something new has arrived?

Let’s talk about it really soon!

Switch & Tribes & Many Other New Business Book Synopsis Presentations now available at 15minutebusinessbooks.com

Karl Krayer and I have just completed our 12th year of monthly presentations of business books at the First Friday Book Synopsis.

Our webmaster (thanks, Dana!) has just uploaded a number of these on our companion website, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.  When you purchase one of our presentations, you receive the handout, which includes representative key quotes from the book, and an outline of the content of the book.  In addition, you receive the audio of our synopsis in an MP3 format, which you can listen to on your computer, load into your iPhone/iPod, of use in any other way you would like.

The way to take maximum advantage of this is obvious – listen to the recording while following along with the handout.  This is what the participants at our live monthly event do each month.  But you can get plenty of information by listening alone while you work-out or drive, or just by reading the handout alone.

Here’s a testimonial from the CEO of a mid-sized, growing company.  He knew that a client was a fan of one the books we had presented, and wanted to discuss the book’s implications for his business.  The CEO purchased our synopsis from our site, read over the handout (he did not have time to listen to the audio), and then met with his client. The client had read the book – the CEO had not.  As they discussed the book, it was clear that our handout had provided enough of the important content that the CEO actually had a better grasp of the key content and transferable principles of the book than the other person had, who had actually read the book.

If you have never ordered from us, you might want to read the FAQ’s to understand where these presentations and recordings were made, and learn a little more about what we offer.  Some of these were presented by my colleague Karl Krayer, and the others were presentations I made.

Here is a partial list of the new titles now available on our site.  And more are coming each month.

59 Seconds

Book author(s) Richard Wiseman

Presented at FFBS in 2010 March

The Design of Business

Book author(s) Roger Martin

Presented at FFBS in 2010 February

Fierce Leadership

Book author(s) Susan Scott

Presented at FFBS in TYBTL

The Healing of America

Book author(s) TR Reid

Presented at the Urban Engagement Book Club

Inside Advantage

Book author(s) Robert Bloom with Dave Conti

Special Presentation

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits

Book author(s) Verne Harnish

Special Presentation


Book author(s) Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Presented at FFBS in 2010 February


Book author(s) Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

Presented at FFBS in 2009 December


Book author(s) Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Presented at FFBS in 2010 March


Book author(s) Kevin Maney

Presented at FFBS in 2010 January


Book author(s) Seth Godin

Presented at FFBS in 2009 January

Tyranny of Email

Book author(s) John Freeman

Presented at FFBS in 2010 January

“Knowledge is Out, Focus is in” – or maybe, how will books differ from what is accessible through the “internet?”

Let’s think about/talk about how we learn.

I recently gave a synopsis of The Black Swan for a major corporate client.  One person said after the session, “This was really interesting.  But I’m not sure how I’m supposed to use this.”  He was describing what I would say is the difference between a “practical” book vs. a “big picture/let’s think” book.

Which kind is more important to read?

Well, if you have not mastered a skill, then you need a “this is how you do it” book.  Something like Encouraging the Heart on how to treat and build people who report to you at work, or The Tyranny of E-mail to provide concrete suggestions on how to handle your e-mail come to mind.  These are what I would call “read once and you’ve got it” books.  You might refer back to them for reference.  They are valuable, helpful, practical books.  But increasingly, we live in a world where a gigantic ever-available library of “this is how to do stuff” is ready to be accessed at a minutes notice on the/through the internet.

The other books are the “big picture/let’s think” books.  That’s where The Black Swan, much of Malcolm Gladwell, and other authors fit in.  You don’t know what to “do” after reading such books.  But you have a bigger world-view, and you may just think bigger picture after reading such books.

I thought about this after reading a brief post by Andrew Sullivan: The Age Of External Memory:

David Dalrymple finds that “filtering, not remembering, is the most important skill” in the digital age:
Before the Internet, most professional occupations required a large body of knowledge, accumulated over years or even decades of experience. But now, anyone with good critical thinking skills and the ability to focus on the important information can retrieve it on demand from the Internet, rather than her own memory. On the other hand, those with wandering minds, who might once have been able to focus by isolating themselves with their work, now often cannot work without the Internet, which simultaneously furnishes a panoply of unrelated information — whether about their friends’ doings, celebrity news, limericks, or millions of other sources of distraction. The bottom line is that how well an employee can focus might now be more important than how knowledgeable he is. Knowledge was once an internal property of a person, and focus on the task at hand could be imposed externally, but with the Internet, knowledge can be supplied externally, but focus must be forced internally.

Sullivan is quoting from this piece:  KNOWLEDGE IS OUT, FOCUS IS IN, AND PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE, by David Dalrymple Researcher, MIT Mind Machine Project.  Dalyrymple begins with this:

Filtering, not remembering, is the most important skill for those who use the Internet. The Internet immerses us in a milieu of information — not for almost 20 years has a Web user read every available page — and there’s more each minute: Twitter alone processes hundreds of tweets every second, from all around the world, all visible for anyone, anywhere, who cares to see. Of course, the majority of this information is worthless to the majority of people. Yet anything we care to know — what’s the function for opening files in Perl? how far is it from Hong Kong to London? what’s a power law? — is out there somewhere.
I see today’s Internet as having three primary, broad consequences: 1) information is no longer stored and retrieved by people, but is managed externally, by the Internet, 2) it is increasingly challenging and important for people to maintain their focus in a world where distractions are available anywhere, and 3) the Internet enables us to talk to and hear from people around the world effortlessly.

Dalyrymple’s point is about the accessing of knowledge, which will become easier and more omnipresent, so that the time will come when a person might do the equivalent of “think” a question, and the answer becomes instantly available.  The how of that is beyond my puny mind to think about.

But this is what I do think about.  What kinds of books will people read?  I think they will read books that do not have parallel content in quick grabs of knowledge through the internet/technology of the era.

So – maybe his phrase describes it partially: knowledge is out, focus is in.  But thinking will also be in, and thinking may be facilitated by fewer “practical” books and more “big picture/let’s think” books.

What do you think?


Important footnote:  The Dalrymple piece is part of a page at the World Question Center, How Has The Internet Changed The Way You Think? Check out (the) Alan Alda’s piece about actual conversation (you know, with “tone of voice” possible) vs. the internet.  An excerpt from Alda:

In email, there’s no instant modulation of the voice that can correct a wrong tone as there is on the phone, and even though I avoid irony when emailing anyone who’s not a professional comedian or amateur curmudgeon, I sometimes have to send a second note to un-miff someone. This can be a problem with any written communication, of course, but email, Web postings, and texting all tempt us with speed. And that speed can cost us clarity. This is not so good because, increasingly, we communicate quickly, without the…  modulating voice…
Somehow, we need what taking our time used to give us: thinking before we talk and questioning before we believe.

I have a hunch I will get lost in this web site a few more times…  Interesting!

First Friday Book Synopsis Update – The Tyranny of E-mail and Trade Off, Coming in January

We closed 2009 with over 90 people gathered for the December First Friday Book Synopsis.  My colleague, Karl Krayer, was out of town, and guest presenter LIn O’Neill helped us get the key concepts from the book Busting Loose from the Business Game by Robert Scheinfeld.  (Thanks Lin).  I had a lot of fun with Superfreakonomics.

Here’s a great quote from the Busting Loose book:
The popular saying “thinking outside the box” refers to inking in creative and innovative ways.  I’m fond of calling what you’re about to discover “dynamiting the box.”

Thanks to all who helped us have a “record year” in attendance and interest at the First Friday Book Synopsis.

In January, we meet on the SECOND Friday of the month, January 8 (the first Friday, January 1, might have caused a few family/parade/football conflicts).

We will present synopses of The Tyranny of E-Mail:  The Four-Thousand Year Journey to Your Inbox by John Freeman, and Trade Off:  Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t by Kevin Mancy (foreword by Jim Collins).

We hope to see you there.

What a New Book Says about e-Mail

Since you are taking a break from your e-mail right now to read this post, I thought you might be interested in a new book by John Freeman entitled The Tyranny of e-Mail (Scribner, 2009).   My plans are to feature this book at our January First Friday Book Synopsis.

The premise of this book is that unlike the phrase that rings for every AOL user, “you’ve got mail, ” e-Mail actually has you.  Freeman explains that contrary to popular belief, e-Mail has not brought us closer together.  Recipients misread and misunderstand large numbers of e-Mail.

In his book, Freeman suggests that e-Mail is at fault for a number of maladies, including difficulty concentrating, trouble maintaining depth in relationships with friends and loved ones, problems feeling rushed, and several others.

I think that his suggestion not to quit is a wise one.  Rather, learn to manage e-Mail so that it does not manage you.  Send fewer of them.  Reply only when you feel that you have to.  Check them on your terms and schedule.  Don’t visit your box excessively during the day.

I look forward to delivering a synopsis of this provacative book in January at our Dallas-based program.  Until then, let’s talk about what you think!