As a technologist, I started there. What apps and services would help me manage the deluge of messages I receive every day? Sure, there are useful tools out there like AwayFind and Boomerang for Gmail, but I'd argue that they're Band-Aids. The core problem is us, not email. Solving this problem requires an entirely different mind-set. Rather than looking outward, why not look inward? What was I doing wrong?
No one forces us to immediately respond to any given email. We choose to reply a message. If we do that immediately to each email, then we effectively condition others to expect more of the same. It's all very Pavlovian.
Over the course of the last few months, I've tried to stop this cycle. I have intentionally left my phone at home while going to the gym to resist the temptation to quickly check messages while at a red light.
But be warned: A few people have sent me confused messages because they didn't receive the normal immediate reply to which they had become accustomed. Growing pains are inevitable and old habits die hard.
Email is addicting and it has become the default means of communication--but it's folly to think that it's the only one or even the best in each circumstance. Getting people to recognize its limitations is difficult. This will take time. I'm convinced, however, that the squeeze is worth the juice.
PHIL SIMON is a sought-after speaker and the author of five management books. His most recent, Too Big To Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data, will be released in March of 2013 (John Wiley & Sons). @philsimon