Would you start up your car, open up the garage door, back it down the driveway, and then park it across the street from your house to go visit the neighbor who lives across the street?

Of course not. That’s not a smart use of that machine. Yet we routinely email people who are right across the hall or text people who are in the same room.

Email, cell phones, tablets, social media, and the internet itself … we’re now starting to ask, “Just because we can, does it mean we should?”

Just because I can text my boss my latest idea to revolutionize the world (really, it will) at 2:30AM, does that mean I should?

Just because I can fire an employee via instant messenger on Facebook, does that mean I should?

What about email? What’s the best use of email, and what constitutes email abuse? A few people are going radical and tackling the email problem by hitting “delete” on the whole mess.

What?!? If I walked away from email, my boss would fire me!

It’s true, most people can’t just walk away. But a few who have the autonomy and authority to do so are simply shutting it down. Others are putting hard limits on its use. Why?

It’s clogging the internet and is a security risk.
Across the world, 269 Billion emails are sent every day. CISCO estimates that 65% of that volume is spam, and approximately 10% of spam is malicious (i.e., attempts to hack our computers or steal passwords). Countless hours and dollars every day are spent attempting to manage this global flood of email.

It’s an unwarranted burden in many or most cases.
The average office-based worker receives (depending on who’s doing the estimate) 300-600 emails per week. Do your own calculation on how many of these are unnecessary, useless, confusing, uncivil or worse.

The constant distraction of email makes us dumber and less productive.
Dr. Glen Wilson at the University of London’s Institute of Psychiatry found people distracted by constant email and phone interruptions suffered a 10-point drop in their IQs. And Dr. Gloria Mark, a professor of Informatics at UC-Irvine, found that higher email use is associated with lower levels of productivity and higher levels of stress.

So what are some people doing about email?

Audie Chamberlain, a chief executive in Denver, Colorado, simply doesn’t use it at all. Other than texting, he communicates with people the old-fashioned way: he talks to them.

It’s so liberating…it has freed up my time to think and have more meaningful conversations.

Jo Piazza, an author, has taken a less radical approach: she set strict limits on when she reads and responds to email, and let people know that through an automatic reply message. She reports it has had positive impacts not only on her productivity and creativity, but on the quality of the email she receives.

After a while it almost trained [people] to be sending me better and more efficient emails.

The key for all of the people described in the articles listed below was: they took control of their email use instead of allowing email to control them, drive their schedule, eat up valuable time, and distract them from important work.

My new email policy goes into effect May 1.

I’m pretty sure nobody will un-Friend me.

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For ideas on how to unplug or set boundaries on email, check out:

Meet the People Who’ve Stopped Emailing

A CEO Drowning in Email Explains How to Get It Under Control

Tame the Email Beast