I receive a wireless communication approximately every 30 seconds from 7am-7pm every day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I receive over 1500 emails per 24 hour period. These communications are filled with media – documents to read, presentations to review, websites to access, and streaming video. Yes, I still use the email triage approach I outlined in 2007 but it’s a losing battle. The volume of communication exceeds my ability to process and respond to the information. I could cancel all my meetings, phone calls, and presentations but still fill the entire day with email communication.
I’m not suggesting this is healthy or sane, but it is the reality of communications today.
The iPhone 4S gives me a touch screen user interface to scroll, zoom, and manage my incoming messages. I can view every document, website, and video over 3G networks. Siri and voice recognition features enable me to manage my email by voice. I find myself dictating responses to about a quarter of my email with amazing accuracy.
The daughter of a friend was bemoaning poor connectivity of the internet at a university in Europe. She said, “It’s vital since I don’t have any other method of communication.”My friend noted, “I was telling her how we only had letters and occasional long distance phone calls in college….”
One of my most widely read blog posts was entitled, “Blackberry Cold Turkey,” in December of 2006. The impetus was when my telecom provider wrote in November to tell me that my bare bones wireless data service was going to be discontinued, but that I could “upgrade” to one with a higher price with more functionality, if I also bought a new device. I decided it was time for a life-changing experience and tossed my Blackberry in the trash. This reminded me of a major functionality of email.
The most important attribute of email is the asynchronicity of the medium: The sender and the receiver do not have to be in contact at the same moment. This enables efficient communication. You can integrate emails into the fabric of your life. You originate a message when you want, and you reply to another’s when you want.
Until the “revenge effect” occurs! How does this work? Email was invented. Then Blackberries were invented so we could be sure, when we are away from our computer, to receive emails as soon as they are sent and reply to them immediately. In fact, we feel compelled to read and respond in real time. Asynchronicity disappears.Continue reading…
John Halamka is the CIO at Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center and the author of the popular “Life as a Healthcare CIO” blog, where he writes about technology, the business of healthcare and the issues he faces as the leader of the IT department of a major hospital system. He is a frequent contributor to THCB.