Commentary

A Meaningful Christmas Gift . . .

As I was reflecting on the theme of Coach’s Corner for this issue I recalled the pivotal lessons I’ve learned, but not always applied, regarding the best practice for emails.

Everyone I know is snowed under and spends a minimum of thirty minutes every day dealing with fifty or more complex issues before they can even begin to create value-added work.

This is a noisy world; the amount of information that is transmitted daily is phenomenal. Consider that the sum total of information stored in the mind of an average seventeenth century man over a lifetime would be the same as that held within the pages of a weekend newspaper today! How do we find quietude in our spirits?

The wise men brought three immensely valuable gifts which everyone will recall as Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. What gift will be remembered two years after your departure, let alone two thousand years?

Christmas is a time of joy and goodwill; how much of this is contained within each one of your emails? Bill Gates signs off his emails with a smile because there are too many other emotions flying around the internet. Could we all not do at least as much?

So, here’s my gift to you which you are welcome to re-gift in as many ways as you can devise - five principles to spread peace on earth through taming emails:

  • Emails are primarily for sharing information and scheduling events (like real conversations);
  • Each email should deal with a single subject, with the main point expressed in the first sentence and should contain as few words as possible
  • Never send an email that has emotional content - unless it’s 100% positive - phone calls are more effective and efficient and visits are usually remembered;
  • Think twice about sending copies and then do so sparingly; don’t send blind copies, call instead;
  • Passing on email chains is the same as gossiping – is it worth the risk of association?

I cannot make the noise go away but I can remind you that the signal-to-noise ratio is within your control; you can always say "No” and perhaps you should, more often than you do.

Love is reflected in love. There’s no law that says you have to love your neighbour but it is a tenet of every major religion and expression of ethic; but then whoever said that legislators are infallible? Think about how much grief would simply disappear if we really cared about other people. They’d have to print good news in the newspapers!

The one great point about this Season is that it encourages ordinary folks to do extraordinary things – all in the name of goodwill. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could extend the practice through the other eleven months?

Next time you are writing an email, think on these things – honestly, it won’t hurt!