Email is holding us back as a society.

There are about a thousand reasons why email sucks, so what can we do about it?
Written by Cameron Germein

Email holds a genuinely interesting role in the history of the Internet. If word processors and spreadsheets put a PC on every desk, then email got that PC connected to the Internet. Email had a powerful business use case even as the web was still in its absolute infancy, and there's no doubt that it helped drive the digital revolution in which we are all now playing a part. 

As foundational as it may be, email was designed back in the 1970s, and the world has come a long way since. Sure, email clients have gotten better, and its universal adoption ensures that it's not going anywhere any time soon, however this presents us with a bit of a problem because, and I'm not speaking in hyperbole here: email is holding us back as a society. 

The real problem with email is this; people don't know any better. Email has a narrow niche of usefulness, but because it's what everyone knows, it gets used for all sorts of things that would be wildly more efficient if we simply used more appropriate tools. 

  • You cannot manage a project through email. You should use a PM tool like Basecamp or JIRA. 
  • Emailing documents back and forth between yourselves is not a versioning system. Use a shared drive, a DMS, or better yet, Google Docs. 
  • You cannot manage team discussions through email. Use Slack. 
  • Your email inbox is not a to-do list. Use... anything else. Even a piece of paper is better. 

Because email more or less allows you to get the job done, it has allowed almost everyone to step into the digital arena and operate with their co-workers. The problem is - they've stayed there. We, as a society, are struggling to take that next step. Even today, in 2018, I still hear stories of people emailing back and forth endless chains of documents they're working on, named helpful things like "Project Doc V2.2 FINAL FINAL ACTUAL FINAL V3.docx", with related but disconnected feedback scattered all throughout the chain... it's madness!

The tools exist to enable us to work efficiently, we just have to take the next step and stop using email for something it was never designed. If you ever find yourself getting frustrated and hunting through old emails for something that got sent to you... then have a look at the tools I've mentioned above, and I guarantee you'll make your life a whole lot easier on yourself! 

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