Surviving without e-mail

The BBC website is carrying a story about the boss of an IT company Atos, banning all internal e-mail.

Thierry Breton caused a sensation last week when he told an interviewer that he planned to ban internal email at the information technology services giant, Atos.

Read the full story here

Let’s be clear from the outset, he’s not planning to ban all e-mail. If you’re trying to get in contact with someone inside the business you will still be able to e-mail them. What Mr Breton is stopping is the stream of e-mail that goes from one desk to the next.

Personally, I reckon this is a brilliant idea.

In the last year I had to review my e-mail using habits. I wasn’t getting work done as well as I should have been because every five minutes there was another e-mail that would need replying to. Just that little envelope icon was enough to cause a distraction. So, I now have a plan.

For the most part I only open, read and respond to e-mail first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon. In cases where I think that the e-mail I’m sending will illicit a response that will require more of my attention, I’ll schedule it to be sent towards the end of the day, meaning that I won’t need to deal with any response until the following day at the earliest.

This may sound a little cheeky, but there are days when conversations can start by e-mail that are no help to anyone. While I’m not a great fan of meetings either, I can see times when it makes sense to get five people in a room to discuss and issue rather than attempting it by e-mail.

I should also say that there are occasions when rules need to be broken. Dealing with external clients and customers, I’ll try to respond more quickly. Coming back off holiday, I’ll sit for a morning or a day to clear the backlog. I’ll even deal with messages on my phone when I’m travelling and there’s not much else to do. But, in general, the principles above still hold true.

So this is currently how I manage e-mail, but I’m willing to learn. So if you’ve got any tips or tricks I’d love to hear them.

Posted in Business, communications, Work and tagged , , , .


  1. One way forward on this is to completely turn off your email client application except for the windows you want to do email.

    I haven’t tried this but know it would be effective.

  2. Read of quite a sneaky trick somewhere that you might find helpful. When away from office set out of office message for a day after you return so as to allow you a day to wade through backlog of emails without hopefully receiving so many interruptions.

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