Blog | Dec 2, 2011 | 4 Comments

[email fail: lessons in frustration]

I recently accepted a position as an interim communications director for a large nonprofit. Suddenly, the volume of email I receive shot up dramatically, and so did my level of frustration.

Why do we generate so much email?

I’ve thought about some of the legitimate reasons I’ve written so many emails lately:

I should confess that I write fundraising emails for a living, too.

I’ve also noticed some not-so-legitimate reasons for emails:

“Dude, it’s called the phone.”

Years ago, that’s what I told a friend who complained to me about having too much email. But I didn’t really take my own advice. Starting today, however, I’m going to rethink email. To help me, I started this list of when it would be better to pick up the phone or set up a meeting instead:

It also took me a while to get into the groove of managing a team.

I’m not just managing myself, I’m essentially running a department again.  I have a great team but I’ve been out of the cube farm for so long that it took about three weeks before the idea of a “status meeting” got back into my consciousness. When the light bulb went off in my head, I set up weekly conference calls through We run through everything in about an hour and save at least quadruple that amount of time in sending emails back and forth.

And then there’s the fact that I don’t just work with desk jockeys.

Most of the people I support in this nonprofit spend their days supervising staff and serving clients. Some of them don’t even have their own workstations and carry their files on a thumb drive hanging from their ID badge lanyards. They don’t answer emails very often, and when they do, it’s usually late in the day or at night. In these cases, I have to remember that the cell phone is my best friend.

What about you? How do you feel about work-related email? How do you keep it under control?

Bonus: A couple of good blogs about email from the very busy Deb Ng of Kommein, one of my favorite blogs.

14 Reasons Why I Didn’t Respond to Your Email Five Minutes After You Sent It

10 Reasons I Don’t Answer Your Email








Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


Hi Claire, enjoyed your post and right on point on the benefits and frustrations of email. A few ways I have taken control of my in box:

1. set up filters in gmail: this way those items that may take longer to review are organized and I can deal with them when I have more time.
2. clear out my inbox monthly: I do a major purge at the end of the month so I’m starting fresh each month.
3. Nutshell mail saves me time reviewing social media so I can spend more time on regular emails.

Regarding the phone, I do call if it’s urgent and I haven’t gotten a response to repeated emails, although I feel in general people don’t like to talk on the phone. I also find that marking the subject line with something like: “concerned I haven’t heard back from you” usually works.


Claire Wagner Reply:

Thanks for the ides, Carrie. I hadn’t heard of Nutshell mail. I’ll have to look it up. Your point about people not answering emails is a good one. I’ve had a lot of problems with that lately, too, and am trying similar strategies. That could be another blog post in itself!




Claire, as usual, I so value your blog. Getting into the team thing is crucial (yep, memo to self) 🙂 LOL

the one thing that jumped out was sending an e-mail when someone is too chicken to confront a problem. BAD (as in ineffectual) move. Pick up the phone, call to set an appointment to discuss a problem. Don’t discuss the problem until you both have set aside time to talk, quietly (hopefully in person), without interruptions. set aside 30 min. if possible.

e-mail is guaranteed to make a situation worse. the medium cuts out 75% of the cues we use to communicate effectively. a phone call is not quite so bad (sometimes not possible to meet, but how about skype?). face to face is best.

pick your options knowing you may have to compensate when a situation is not ideal. 😉 Just saying. best as always, Doc Peg


Claire Wagner Reply:

Yes, the chicken email is not a good idea. I am trying to be more confident and direct. Thanks for the excellent advice, Doc!


Margaret (Peggy) Herrman


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