Reply All Information Overload constitutes a large portion of overprocessing and overproduction of information – two of the 7 deadly wastes.
We know that Overprocessing is one of the 7 Wastes in Lean. While describing them is helpful, seeing them in our own work life is a bit more difficult. But, if we step back and gain some perspective, we’ll find that there is waste all around us.
Here’s an example from my own life: I was recently pointed to a Google Gmail Labs site and found this nifty little Google experiment called “Default Reply to All”.
After a moment of disgust, I then thought to myself:
what if 100,000 people installed this Gmail extension? and each of those people wrote 5 people and each of those 5 people replied to all? and on, and on, and on.
That question then led me to thinking about information overload and the exponential growth of email overproduction as a writer of email and email overprocessing as a reader of email.
Of course email overload is just one type of information overload. There are many more, but email is especially dangerous because so many of us rely on it and yet it can become so unwieldy so quickly.
So what can we do to reduce the Overprocessing and Overproduction that comes from email overload?
As a Sender of Email
- Write a clear subject line and get to the point; be brief.
- If possible, paste the contents of an attachment in the body of the email, reducing the number of moving parts. Better yet, instead of attachments, just download Dropbox and insert a link to the document you want.
- If at all humanly possible, don’t Reply To All. Only email the critical people that need to read the email.
- If it’s a short message, place it in the subject line with an (eom) at the end, which stands for “end of message.”
- To reduce email ping pong or email tag, recommend to meet face to face instead using the scheduling function in your email client.
- Write fewer emails and you’ll receive fewer emails in return.
As a Recipient of Email
- Turn off automatic notification of incoming emails. Instead, schedule time throughout the day when you’ll check your email.
- Practice single-piece flow: read the email, then throw away the email. Don’t bother saving the email unless corporate policy says you have to.
- If you are CC’d in an email, don’t Reply to All. Instead, throw away the email or only respond to the sender. Likely, if you are CC’d, the email is just informing you and you have no need to respond to it.
These are just a few that I’ve come up with and practice daily, at least I try to. How about you? What are some of your ideas?
And please, do not install that Gmail Reply to All extension.
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Tim McMahon says
Pete, I must be really bad I don’t even reply to some emails. If I can respond by phone or conversation I do. The reply to all and the cc’s and bcc’s just get way too much. Great tips and advice.
I’d also remind about mute and auto tag options in gmail/ First might help a lot if somebody put you to CC by mistake. Second could help you to filter not important messages and auto notifications. Also filter by subject or mail-address could be created to avoid spam or low valued mails.