You Have to Earn E-mail

Michael Shukis

You Have to Earn E-mail


E-mail steals your life if you let it. It steals your focus. It blocks creativity. And it destroys productivity. Constant communication stops you from getting work done.

E-mail has made “communicating” easy, convenient, and fast. But it isn't real communication. It used to be reserved for work hours. You could e-mail between the hours of 8-5. But now you're connected 24/7. And you have no reason not to be. Your phone is in your pocket, and everybody knows it. Why wouldn't you answer that e-mail?

The ease of communication is the problem. Convenience makes it harder to communicate. Constant connection has hurt our ability to connect with anyone. Relationships are built on trust and authenticity. They don't happen through a keyboard. Great teams aren't built through Yahoo mail.


David Pottruck, Charles Schwab's CEO, on e-mail. From Raising the Bar by Gary Erickson

There is no easy way to communicate. You can't e-mail your way to a great team or organization. Relationships require hundreds of small interactions. It's the daily talks that create great teams, establish values, and instill accountability.

This lesson was taught decades ago. Reading a message removes the context. You might read a text message and think the person is mad at you. Maybe they are and maybe they aren't. You have no way of knowing. You took the message out of context.

This is the problem with e-mail. It's meant to supplement communication, not replace it. But we're trying to replace it to be more efficient. We don't want to bother people; we'd rather e-mail them. But e-mail robs you twice. First, the notification steals your attention. Second, your reply takes time. Instead of handling it with the person, we use our keyboard. And it's not working.

David Pottruck says e-mail is earned. We earn it after good relationships are established. Not before. E-mail can support communication. But it can't replace it. So make sure you've earned the right to e-mail. And never rely on it. The more you can avoid it the better.

tags: business,communication

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