Why leaders should delete their emails

Image of finger on 'delete' button to illustrate deleting emails

Delete your emails and you will cut through the fat of internal communications, leaving only those things that really matter

A few months ago I deleted my entire inbox of 328 “important” emails. Why? Because I believe email has become the onesie of communication. Comfortable. Easy. Lazy.

The idea of liberating my inbox came when I returned from a long weekend to see 328 emails all requiring a response. Instead of spending the next nine hours going through them, I emailed staff with the subject line ‘328’ to tell them that I loved them all, but I would be deleting my entire inbox.

It went on to say we should all interact as real humans some more, which ended up as a rough set of rules; first come speak to me in person, then text me if it’s important, and finally call me if it’s urgent.

To make sure the message was delivered, I then bought a Punkt phone, which has proper buttons, a seven-day battery life and only two functions – to make and receive phone calls, and send or receive text messages. No emails. No social feeds. No distractions.

Time out from emails

As a business, we focus on the behaviour and attitudes of global early adopters and I can happily report I’m not alone. We first noticed the idea of “digital detoxes” in 2011 as part of our Slow Tech exhibition curated by Henrietta Thompson, and our recent Spirituality report revealed 54 per cent of our audience believe that technology has made them less connected to the real world.

Of course, I still use email to talk with clients. However, for internal communication and across our offices in New York, Berlin and Amsterdam, we use Slack, and have started introducing our clients to this tool as well.

The benefits for me are clear to see. From a business point of view, my staff now speak more openly and the greater level of transparency means that emails aren’t buried, conversation flows. I just think email isn’t as relevant for the emerging workforce anymore.

In a professional sense, I love that when someone has to come find, call or text me, they have to really think about whether that question is important. If it’s not then in all likelihood they can solve it themselves. It’s not about being an absent boss who isn’t available, it’s because I want to be more available for the important things, and encourage my staff to develop their independence.

Outside of work I’ve seen significant personal benefits too. As a father of two young kids, I don’t want to be one of those parents who is in the park scrolling through feeds on my phone while my kids are playing on the swings. My staff now only consider contacting me for something that is absolutely vital, and I’m enjoying the privileges of being a parent and life outside the office.

What are you waiting for? Select All -> Delete.

About author

William Rowe

William Rowe

William Rowe is the founder and CEO of brand consultancy Protein

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