I think email is underrated as a productivity tool and overly criticized as being too all consuming.
Here is why I find email to be a great tool:
1. It’s a-snychronous. You don’t have to find a time for multiple people to meet. You send it when you have time and they read it when they have time. This is perhaps it’s most amazing feature. It allows for productivity flow on both ends of conversation if you use it right.
2. It’s only takes as long as it takes. Meetings are generally scheduled in 30 min or 60 min blocks and they often magically take up however much is allocated. An email takes as long as it actually takes, no more and no less.
3. It’s structured. While I try to talk in as a concise and structured manner as possible (and sometimes get mocked for doing so!), it’s still hard to organize information when you’re talking. Most of my emails consists of: a brief greeting + 3-5 bullets + next steps. The bullets provide the structure for the content.
4. It’s clear and transparent: So long as you’re writing structured emails, the information should clearly set expectations and can be used as a record of what has been discussed.
5. It’s an effective organizational tool: Email is very helpful to prevent dropping balls. I keep all requests in my inbox until they are completed. This helps me be conscientious, which I think is extremely important in building relationships, as well as getting things done.
6. It’s a foot in the door: You can get just about anyone’s email and try to get their attention. This is remarkably democratic. If you deliver a great message, you’ll generally get a response.
Yes, email has plenty of downsides.
And some things are simply best done via verbal communication.
But if you use email well, it can be a powerful force for doing good work.