When Shouldn’t You Send Email?

Sometimes sending an email is nothing but a time waster; learn how you can save time by not emailing.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #146

Sometimes we experience the ultimate irony: the very things we believe will help us be more productive are the very things that cause us to become less productive. Like the way I process my inbox. I often am so intent on getting through my inbox that I make more work for myself in the long run.

When Shouldn’t You Send Email?

I needed to get into the theater where we’re putting on Jesus Christ Superstar. I emailed our fabulous producer (Hi, Rosser!) and asked how I could get in. Later, while processing my inbox, Rosser’s message came in: “Get the keys from the campus activities office.” I then remembered I’m not a student! I started to email back to ask whether I needed to be a student for them to let me in. Halfway through composing the email, I realized in horror that in “email mode,” I automatically act as though we’re having a conversation. We’re not. My conversational email was actually making more work for everyone. It would be fastest to just call the safety office and ask, since I had to call anyway for the key. But because I was so intent on handling my next inbox message, I stayed in email mode and almost made more work for me and Rosser.

What twisted, perverse, dastardly evil had almost seduced me down the primrose path of working more and doing less? It was none other than my very desire to get through my inbox quickly.

How Can Sending Email Cause More Work?

When you give someone else control by asking them a question, it has several time-wasting effects.

When we’re slogging through our inbox, taking action on a message and deleting it feels productive. Over time, it becomes very easy to email a single sentence—as if we’re having a conversation—and feel as though we’ve moved things forward. I was about to email Rosser a question that would give me the mental satisfaction of feeling like I had done something useful. Then the ball would be in Rosser’s court, so I would be morally justified in doing nothing until I heard back. FAIL!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.