There's no doubt that organizations send far too many emails. For example, when consultants from Bain & Company recently analyzed Microsoft Outlook, Gmail and similar applications, they learned that:

  • Senior executives receive 200 or more emails a day
  • A typical frontline supervisor spends about eight hours a week managing emails
  • Managers also spend eight hours a week on emails, 25% of which should never have been sent to the manager in the first place, and another 25% which the manager shouldn't respond to

It's no wonder that individuals, organizations and entire countries try to control email; for example, France instituted a law that requires companies with more than 50 workers to establish times when employees are not permitted to manage email.

I'm a big proponent of doing everything possible to control the Email Monster, including addressing the big issue of information overload, and making small changes to every email message sent.

But there's one remedy to email overload that most organizations overlook. Stick with me now because at first you're going to think this is counterintuitive.

Here's the solution: Encourage employees to meet more often.

Before you protest, I agree that nobody needs another boring one-hour meeting. And I also concede that many meetings should never be held at all--because they're poorly conceived and even more poorly facilitated.

But the strategy for dramatically improving both meetings and emails in one bold move is this: Whenever an issue needs people to share their views or advice, or discuss a solution, hold a super-short meeting in 10, 15 or, at most, 30 minutes.

The meeting can be in-person (that's ideal) or virtual, but the point is this: Holding a quick, focused meeting is more efficient than managing a string of emails.

Of course, you only invite the people who need to weigh in and assist with the issue, not everyone who is peripherally involved. And you carefully plan the meeting to meet your objectives and make the most of participants' precious time.

But as you introduce this new concept--short meetings can accomplish more than endless email chains--employees will embrace this new way of moving work forward. Go on, give it a try.