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The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox

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  • Posted May 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Practical guide to mastering e-mail

    Send dramatically fewer e-mails and everything else will get better, says writer and editor John Freeman. Before explaining that promise, he offers a nostalgic look at the history of mail, starting with clay tablets. He covers the changes that each new burst of speed caused along the way. Then he describes the way that today's employees are ruining their attention spans, productivity, relationships and even their health with e-mail overload. In fact, he says, most office workers send or receive about 200 e-mails daily, absorbing 40% of their work time. Freeman's suggestion to slow down online communications will ring terror in many hearts. It will particularly strike you if you're reading with one eye on this text and one eye on your inbox. The message to step away from the computer is not new. But Freeman offers compelling, succinct information on why easing back from unrelenting e-mail is important and on how to break the constant e-mail cycle. getAbstract suggests his book to managers, in particular, but anyone who uses e-mail will find wisdom here. So read on (believe it or not, your e-mail will wait).

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  • Posted January 2, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    A Good Start on a Subject Worthy of Many Many Books

    I bought The Tyranny of E-mail for multiple reasons. First and foremost, because in my line of work (director of a student services department at a local college) email management is key to operating efficiently and effectively. Second, because of my overall interest in communications, I came upon John Freeman's book with the hope of finding a better way to manage my email life and provide guidance for my department employees.

    The Tyranny of E-mail provides a long, detailed account of how man has progressed in creating and delivering correspondence over the past 3000+ years, looking in-depth at how the modern day postal service evolved in Europe and across the globe. This well-researched first-half of the book helps lay a foundation for understanding how e-mail has improved the speed at which we communicate and also how it has expanded our reach.

    The second half of the book focuses in on how e-mail has impacted our ways of work and living, and in may cases how it has become a detriment to effective communication. Mr. Freeman does a good job of presenting evidence and explanations of how e-mail can cause additional stress, as the sender and receiver of e-mails may not be making the same assumptions regarding the correspondence (Am I expected to respond ASAP? Does ALL CAPS mean the person is mad at me? Must I be "CC'd" on everything? Would a phone call have been a better way to ask your questions?). Clicking "Send" is so easy, but we forget the ramifications of our actions. The Tyranny of E-mail should, at a minimum, make people stop and think about their personal e-mail practices and the effect they have on others- both in the work place and beyond.

    Other than a few non-essential political barbs thrown into the book, The Tyranny of E-mail is a great read. Mr. Freeman's thoughts on a Slow Communication Movement will make you really THINK about how, when, and why we communicate. And hopefully, make us smarter and more concerned (with others) when we do.

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