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The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity

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Tim Wilson
The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:19:00 pm

These are general business principles, and apply broadly to your communication with clients, bosses, and colleagues.

Because they are general, you may believe that they don’t apply to YOU. This belief is likely inversely proportional to the truth.

+++

1) Email is not action. It is a substitute for action.


2) The number of emails regarding a project is directly proportional to the time it takes to finish the project.


3) The number of times that email is checked is inversely proportional to the importance of the receiver. The number of times that email is actually replied to is the same, divided by ten.

As a result,


4) Never expect a boss or client to respond to an email from you. If they do, consider it a fluke or a bonus. The fact is: you work for them. They do not work for you. It is not, and never will be, part of their job to answer your email.

The sooner you figure this out, the more successful you will be.

As a result,


5) NEVER email ANYONE with power over your income, unless they have told you repeatedly that this is the best way to reach them.
a.Don’t believe them the first time.

b.This is of course true regarding any communication from bosses or clients.


6) The value of email is inversely proportional to the importance of the message.

Learning the name of your first grandchild, finding the news that you are cancer-free, that your office building is on fire, that your stolen car has been recovered intact – these are among the communications that will likely never be delivered by email.

Among the things that the client should never hear from you in email: that the crew is waiting on the set, that payment is late, that you’re running late, that there’s a problem with the project, that there’s something you need from them in order to complete the project, that the deadline is in danger.

Among the things that you will never hear from the client in an email: I’ve got an idea for a new project that we can do together.

Among the things that you MIGHT hear from a client in an email: You’re fired.

Among the things you will never hear from your boss: You’ve got the job. You’ve got a raise. You’ve been promoted.

In corporate life, you will never be fired by email.

Why? Because the value of email is inversely proportional to the importance of the message.

However,


7) You have not "called" them if you've only reached their voicemail.
a. The ability to receive voicemail in a timely manner is inversely proportional to iPhone ownership.

b. The desire to actually speak to anyone for any reason is inversely proportional to iPhone ownership. If you really need to speak to someone, virtually anything is better than calling them on their iPhone. If you call them from YOUR iPhone, you deserve all the scorn – and firing – that you receive.


8)“Reply All” has caused far more disasters than it has averted. Has it ever averted ANY disasters?


9)Nobody, including you, follows the rule that says, “Never say anything in an email that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.”

As a result,


10) Through an escalating cycle of “No, that’s not what I meant,” “You’re not getting it,” “How can you not be understanding this?” – email can create confusion and ill will in moments that a lifetime of phone calls and face-to-face conversation never will, even over the life of an entire relationship.

It can also create ill will (or worse) that may not be fully recovered from in that same relationship’s lifetime.


11) Email is this age’s great technological breakthrough for widespread, instantaneous passive aggression.

Your upset over clients or colleagues not answering emails creates a relationship in your mind that does not exist in your THEIR mind. You stand with arms akimbo, building resentment and anger over what you believe to be a personal offense against your self-worth – “I DESERVE the courtesy of a reply” --when the client may be doing nothing more than the actual job that earns them actual money to pay you.

In other words, the client or colleague has been just fine all along. The only obstacle to success was your arrogance, and the self-absorbed, imaginary world you built in your refusal to speak.

In other words, the obstacle to success was not somebody else not answering your email. The obstacle is YOU.
a. Don’t teach anybody that the best way to piss you off, take you out of your game, and to just plain hide from you, is to not answer your email. Yes, your clients and co-workers sometimes enjoy torturing you for the sheer sport of it.

b. More likely, they have no idea how you feel about email, because they don’t care.

c. Even more likely, they assume that you feel the same way that they do, that email is at the absolute bottom of the ways to communicate timely, important information. The likelihood of you getting angry, frustrated, peeved, vexed, etc. is not part of their world, and ultimately, not their problem.


12) Building your LIFE around conditions that do not actually exist is called “psychosis.”

Operating your BUSINESS around conditions that do not exist is called “psychosis.”

Treatment for psychosis in your LIFE, is typically some combination of prayer/meditation, therapy, and a medically-supervised drug regimen.

Treatment for psychosis in BUSINESS is typically some combination of the telephone and face-to-face conversation.

Prayer/meditation, therapy, and a medically-supervised drug regimen certainly help treat business psychosis, but are no substitute for the combination of telephone and face-to-face conversation.



+++++


Are there ANY ways that email is useful? A very few.


1) Meeting reminders…keeping in mind that, the more important the meeting, the less valuable the email. This becomes even truer as the meeting draws closer. There’s absolutely no excuse for sending a reminder email once the meeting has begun.


2) Simultaneous communication to a group…keeping in mind that email creates confusion and ill will that no other method of communication can.


3) Sharing documents. Good one! Although best used in combination with a phone call. “Have you been able to take a look at that file I sent?” The answer is almost certainly “no,” allowing you to continue, “Let me show you what I’m talking about.”

Note that the most important emailed documents are always followed by physical copies. Why? Because the value of a document attached to an email is inversely proportional to the document itself.


4) Reminder of follow-up tasks. Another good use of email…assuming that all tasks were captured and clearly communicated.

If it is important for you to DO, it is your responsibility to do it whether or not it is in the email.

If it is important to you that someone else do it, then it is your responsibility to make sure that they DO it. If they have not already done it, then email has already shown itself to be an ineffective motivator.

Why? Because email is not action. It is a substitute for action.


5) The only really, truly effective use of email: receiving or retrieving phone numbers.



In conclusion:

If the goal of your organization is building passivity, or creating an environment of frustration and anger directed toward itself or toward clients in ways that inhibit productivity and conflict resolution, then by all means, maximize the efficient use of email.

If the goal of your organization is direct communication and action, then communicate directly, and act.


Finally, and most importantly, under no circumstances include the text “Sent from my iPhone” in any email. Because then, you just look like a dick.




Tim Wilson
Creative Cow Magazine!

My Blog: "Is this thing on? Oh it's on!"


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grinner hester
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:02:04 pm

13.
Replying to all with your editor included only adds to your budget as it puts him on the clock as he updates his twitter page.

lol
troof.



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Richard Herd
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:14:07 pm

anyone remember telnet and pine?


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Christopher Wright
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:37:31 pm

Very good post overall Tim, with one major caveat. For an increasing number of people nowadays, their cell phone (be it iPhone or any other brand) IS their personal phone, business phone and their email sending device of preference... The day of the "land line" office phone is rapidly fading away.
The problem with blanket generalizations.

The desire to actually speak to anyone for any reason is inversely proportional to iPhone ownership. If you really need to speak to someone, virtually anything is better than calling them on their iPhone. If you call them from YOUR iPhone, you deserve all the scorn – and firing – that you receive.



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Virgil Weinstock
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 9:13:07 pm

[Christopher Wright] ..quoting Tim.."The desire to actually speak to anyone for any reason is inversely proportional to iPhone ownership."

I think Tim was making a joke about iPhones. See also the last sentence of the post. A wonderful device whose only shortcoming is the ability to make or receive phone calls.

I agree with what you said about cell phones Christopher, but it doesn't change Tim's points, especially about passive aggression. You aggressively send an email, and it just sits there, passively. Them not answering it is your problem, not theirs.

You may even have made things worse by "passively" not communicating, even though in your mind, you HAVE communicated.

Too bad it's all in your mind.

Also too bad there's no way for somebody who CAN check email on their phone, but ISNT checking email on their phone, to know that you want to reach them.

Oh wait, there IS a way to let somebody with email on their phone know that you need to reach them. Use the phone part of the phone!




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Tim Wilson
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 9:39:06 pm

[Virgil Weinstock] "I think Tim was making a joke about iPhones."

Correct.

[Virgil Weinstock] "Use the phone part of the phone!"

Unless it's an iPhone. :-)

Hey, nice profile photo! Except isn't that Zaius rather than Virgil? :-)


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Virgil Weinstock
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 9:44:59 pm

[Tim Wilson] "Except isn't that Zaius rather than Virgil? :-) "

You, sir, are a nerd among nerds.

I couldn't find a decent picture of Virgil, but I really like this one of Zaius. Don't tell anyone else. LOL



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Timothy J. Allen
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 9:35:51 pm

I wish I'd read "rule 7b" regarding the iPhone earlier this morning!

I was on a conference call and had gone outside to get away from some noise because I could barely hear what the other parties were saying. That's exactly when two military jets flew REALLY low directly over me.

I couldn't find mute fast enough and ended up just hitting "End Call" and calling back a few minutes later. The people on the other end (my mentor, her boss and my bosses' boss) said that it sounded like I'd been sucked down a black hole.

One lesson learned.



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Ron Lindeboom
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:04:26 pm

Timothy,

Do you have access to a recording studio there? One of the projects I am working on needs a drummer of higher technical ability than yours truly, and so I would like to talk to you about it. I think you will like the project.

Give me a call at 805.239.5645 when you have a minute.

Ron


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Bob Cole
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 25, 2009 at 12:30:50 am

[Tim Wilson] "5) The only really, truly effective use of email: receiving or retrieving phone numbers."

I really appreciate it when people I'm working with use a sigfile with their various phone numbers. Often the most useful part of the e-mail.

Another rule, which may even be in Tim's post somewhere: avoid leaving any phone message over fifteen seconds. There's nothing more annoying than listening to a rambling recording.

Bob C


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Bill Davis
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 25, 2009 at 6:15:17 pm

(sarcastically) Oh THANKS Tim.

(returns to struggling with the conundrum of deciding whether I'm now morally compelled to remove the "Tim Wilson" phone number harvested while sharing lunch with him and Michael Horton at some industry event back in the early 2000s from my iPhone in order not to anger either Tim or all the Technology Gods in general...)

Why does life have to be so damn COMPLICATED!


BTW Excellent screed!



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Tim Wilson
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 25, 2009 at 6:30:50 pm

[Bill Davis] "whether I'm now morally compelled to remove the "Tim Wilson" phone number...from my iPhone..."

It's not that I'm anti-iPhone, just that I have observed its spotty reliability. Have at it, man.

Although, fwiw, any number you have for me from the early part of the century is almost surely dead. Send me an email and I'll send you the current one. Hahahahaha!!



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Bill Davis
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Aug 25, 2009 at 8:25:51 pm

Tim,

"Spotty?" Me thinks tho dost - praise- too much. My kingdom for iPhone's ability to operate/organize like I think - but with COVERAGE akin to Phoenix/Scottsdale's omnipresent VERIZON signal. That would surely be bliss.

BTW, I think that (now deleted) phone number is likely circa your time with the estimable Boris? So yeah, a while back. ; )

I'll drop you an email after the clients leave this PM.



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Tom Adams
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:27:15 am

sorry, but I have to disagree with A LOT of the article. I think email is MUCH more important than you give it credit for...especially, for one-man/small production houses. The terminology and refusal to accept the possible benefits make the reviewer sound slightly outdated...I've been built my successful business by using email to my great advantage. Just thought I'd throw in a bit of an opposing view... Cheers.

Regards,

Tom Adams - Director/Owner
Reelife Documentary Productions

"cool digital video stuff...not boring or dumb"
http://www.reelifeproductions.com
Williamsburg, MA, USA

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FCP studio2, 2 TB + 850GB Graid external Firewire Drives
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Jeff Bollow
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Sep 3, 2009 at 4:16:12 am

I have to agree with Tom.

Email (ironically) does a fabulous job of creating a "paper trail".

The key is to cut to the chase, avoid ambiguity, and never email with emotion. :)



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Tim Wilson
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Sep 3, 2009 at 12:51:36 pm

[Tom Adams] "sorry, but I have to disagree with A LOT of the article. I think email is MUCH more important than you give it credit for."

You have to take a look at the thread in context. It follows an entire thread on how important email is, and precedes a thread on the best ways to leave telephone messages. We're all about telling the whole story here.

And if we can have a little fun along the way, all the better.


tw


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Robert Morris
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Sep 3, 2009 at 5:07:51 pm

How about the people who answer their phones when they can't talk, or call you when they can't talk... being right in the middle of some other task? Still more productive than an e-mail?

Personally, I prefer e-mail when I require a "paper trail" of communication, which has often helped me track back specific feedback on a project. Things in writing are often hard to deny. But that being said, the written language (and verbal language) is infinitely less of a reliable communication tool than body language. So in essence, we'd be better off sitting around staring at each other.

This post was a great read! Bravo.


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Rebecca Gillaspie
Re: The 10-sec. Email & The Principle of Counterproductivity
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:25:20 pm

Good Post! I've had a lot of incidents with things being misinterpreted via email. It's very tempting to use it as a communication tool to those around you when you spend all of your time on a computer, and also serves a great distraction tool.

Less is more.


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