E-mail, incremental reading, creativity, and time-management

Piotr Wozniak, Fall 2004

E-mail offers new ways of employing incremental reading in creative communication and remote brainstorming. This article presents a short overview of benefits and disadvantages of using e-mail in communication with the view to maximizing the creativity/time ratio.

E-mail changes the world. What took months in 18th century, takes seconds today. What took a couple of dollars and precious time needed for telephone synchronization in the early 1990s, today, most people in industrialized world can replace with a few clicks of the mouse. Yet there are many people who hate e-mail. They hate spam, and their overflowing Inboxes. The ever-growing queue of unanswered messages poses an unbearable mental burden. Others prefer instant messaging, one-on-one chat, group chats, or Internet telephony.

There seems to be a war going on between those who see "instant feedback" as the way of the future, while others insist "asynchronous communication" is superior. Although instant communication delivers speed, it also feeds on human weaknesses that adversely affect creativity and efficiency. This article argues for the importance and value of asynchronicity. 

Apart from delivering speed, instant communication is favored by majority of people for two basic reasons:

The main thesis of this article is: unless speed is of primary importance, asynchronous communication is vastly superior. For psychological reasons it is very difficult to channel most of your communications into e-mail. However, the cost-effectiveness of such a move is immense. Here is a short summary of pros and cons.

Benefits of e-mail:

Disadvantages of e-mail

It all may sound quite inhuman and robotic. Yet the whole concept of time-management is grounded in maximizing your efficiency, maximizing the power of rational mind, while reducing the impact of human weaknesses.

If creativity is essential. If time-management is important. If deadlines are not pressing. If your typing skills are solid. Convert as much of your meetings and phone conferences to incremental e-mail communication. Once this becomes a habit, you will find it hard to return to the world of disruptive communication that offers a far lower benefit-to-cost ratio.


If you disagree or would like to list more advantages or disadvantages of e-mail as contrasted with instant communication, leave your comments here.