Email is going to be the death of us


Email consumes an average of 13 hours per week (according to McKinsey), that’s 28% of the average workweek. And it’s just nuts.

Referring to email as a productivity tool is plain wrong. In fact, it’s the ball and chain that drags us to our desks, wakes us up in the morning and keeps our smartphones pinging late into the evening.

It doesn’t need to be this way. As a digital agency (for over 15 years) we’ve tried every solution in the book, and some that are not. This is not to say that we don’t use email, it’s still our primary communication for new client activity and it’s still a go-to solution when any of our systems don’t fly. It is however our public enemy No. 1.

Usually, and based on total email volume over time, we have moved the majority of email onto alternative methods and applications.

Getting off the email treadmill

There are lots of really good services that can easily replace 90% of email traffic and make the process more collaborative, less intrusive, easier to search later and a whole lot less distracting.

These applications, and I’m talking about Basecamp, Podio, Zendesk, Trello, Skype etc, are great except not everyones use them. As Email is the lowest common denominator, sadly, we all end up in the mire of email threads.

We’re luckier than most, as a digital agency we communicate in three distinct funnels, and have unique solutions for each of them. None of them are email-centric.

  • Project Communications. We work collaboratively both internally and with clients. As we build and deliver WordPress sites we have a bunch of fairly standard tasks (delivered in iterations) and can break our agency-type work into chunks that are all published using either Basecamp or Trello. As clients generally pay for high-quality project management we steer all project communications via this method. It’s simple, trackable and very transparent.
  • Support for problems and changes. The change/fix process requires a number of steps including Request, Acknowledge, Fix, Snag and Close. For this process the ideal solution is a ticketing system – and we use Zendesk to cover 200 requests per month. Since it’s introduction 2 years ago it;s worked like a dream.
  • Chatter and other transient comms. This used to be a big killer for us in terms of email traffic. They might be questions, requests for help, where are we going on Friday for beer etc. Nothing in the communication is permanent and rarely needs a paper trail but this kind of communication is defined by a level of immediacy that email is poor at delivering. We tried all sorts over the years and still keep coming back to Skype. It gives us communications on any device simply and quickly.


As Email is not dead we simply can’t ignore email so each of our work funnels support using email as a notification channel. This works rather well as some clients are stuck on email, so our systems support email in and out. This is actually the game-changer as otherwise the whole world (well, our clients at least) would need to abandon email in the same way we have.

Worth it? Oh yes – we’ve been a bit cute as well with the notifications, setting up filters so inbound notifications drop into a place away from the main inbox. Clarity is the greatest gain.