inbox zero, email inbox overload, group email hell, group communication, group management

Stuck in group email hell? 3 ways to eliminate inbox overload now

Conducting group business using email alone, as many of us know, is an absolutely Herculean project. Group email hell is a real place. For leaders, the process requires full-time tending. They are forced to orchestrate and monitor every piece of communication with regard to scheduling and decision-making. For members, this collab-via-email “strategy” (if we want to use that term loosely) is equally dysfunctional.

An all too common group email hell scenario:

It takes all of 45 seconds for a busy group leader to hammer out and hit send on a “when should we hold X event?” email. Simple enough, right?

Best case, everyone promptly responds with several available time slots. A volley of negotiation chatter starts, and ultimately stretches across several days and several email threads. Worst case, many don’t respond, and some are left off the thread entirely. That’s because the group contact info spreadsheet hasn’t been updated in over a year. Now there’s a new to-do item to get the stragglers up to speed on the conversation.

Ultimately, the leader picks a time that MOST people can make it. The ones who cannot become marginalized in the process. The less-tech-savvy and less-plugged-in members stay in the  margins just because of the quirks and frustrations involved in using the wrong tool, email, to do something that would be better left to a more nuanced communication platform. Enter: wide-scale abuse of the reply-all button, incorrect nesting leading to frustrating and redundant conversation loops, carelessly saving drafts instead of hitting send, serially missed connections, etc. Is your blood pressure rising yet?

If you are in a group that operates this way, you likely already understand the hydra of issues that occur with email. It’s unwieldy for sharing pictures and for storing documents like PDFs, minutes from previous meetings, evolving contact lists, and other valuable group info. The leader, or an at-least-sort-of-organized admin, becomes indispensable as the finder-of-lost-things. When that person is unavailable nobody has access to any of it.

It’s a time-consuming train-wreck, it’s burdensome…and it’s totally UNNECESSARY.

Read on for our top tips on how to get out of email hell…

…and into high-functioning, virtual group collaboration

1. Keep only action items in your inbox

This is a daily habit to adopt. When you play catch-up on email, respond immediately to the emails that require a response, delete everything you can justify deleting, and sort everything else into folders. Confirmations for travel bookings? Folder. Recurring blog newsletters? Folder. Caveat: group stuff can go in a group folder, but only in the interim time it takes to convince your group to adopt a new tool.

The key: filter, filter, filter, and become mercenary about it.  Reply, file, unsubscribe, or delete. Those are the options.

2. Learn to use “reply-all” AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE

Does the entire group need to know that you can’t attend the meeting because of your son’s orthodontist appointment? Nope! Either directly email the necessary parties or shoot a text. There is rarely a time that using reply-all is the best option.

What can you do instead? Find a different way to handle group communication entirely. Having a chat thread outside of email is a no-brainer. Groupeasy is a game changer. Groupeasy offers both a newsboard and private chat features that are designed to streamline group communication. Telegram offers a narrower list of features but also works well. With each, interface is intuitive, members can easily toggle between group-wide messages and private sub-group chat threads, and everyone can easily catch up on the convo without digging through a messy inbox. The outcome: less stress for everyone, better planning, and the ability for members to be resourceful because they have better tools.

3. Transfer important group docs, info and communication elsewhere ASAP

If possible (and why wouldn’t it be?) do NOT use your email as storage for your group at all. The best and easiest way to do this is to transfer all of the group “stuff” to an online collaboration platform that supports multiple group functions. Sure, there is Google Docs. But why replace an inefficient email process with an equally inefficient Facebook group page, iCal, Dropbox, Survey Monkey, and Google Doc process? Around here, we call that the Frankenstein Protocol. Adopting the Frankenstein Protocol would be a lateral move at best.

Instead, streamline your group process onto a single platform that handles all of the aforementioned group functions like Groupeasy. Nobody has to be in charge of the stuff or the conversation when everyone has equal access.

A hurdle worth bounding over: group buy-in

Here’s what we know. First, everyone’s time is precious. Second, there are a finite set of things that groups need to be able to do well when it comes to collaboration and communication. It really doesn’t much matter how many members you have or what type of group you are. All groups need to be able to make decisions, manage membership, chat, share and store documents, and schedule events. Doing this via email alone is a recipe for wasted time, lethargic engagement, simmering frustration, and a limited ability to meet group goals.

It’s also true that switching tools takes commitment on everyone’s part. The best thing to do if you’re looking to get everyone on board (technology curmudgeons included) is to start the conversation with a solution in your back pocket. Ideally, you want to present something that is user-friendly, easy to adopt, and affordable. Groupeasy checks all of these boxes. The benefit to group members is that they can participate more proactively and with an enhanced ability to collaborate across the group and not just through the leader.  For leaders, there is infinitely less oversight, monitoring, and conversation-driving necessary.

Sounds like a win-win. Who could say no to that?

Happy Grouping,

The Team at Groupeasy

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