“I sent you an e-mail 30 minutes ago and you haven’t responded.  Is there a problem?”

Has anyone ever said something like this to you?  If so, there really IS a problem.

In days of old, when two people wanted to communicate, they needed to share four dimensions simultaneously: latitude, longitude, altitude and time.  In other words, they had to be in the same location at the same time in order to have a conversation.

Then, along came Alexander Graham Bell and the invention of the telephone.  Now we didn’t have to be in the same place, but we still needed to be available at the same time.

Finally, e-mail was introduced, and that freed us from all four dimensions.  We could communicate from different locations at different times and do it more quickly than the pony express.

When did we turn this freeing technological tool into an impersonal telephone?  When you respond immediately to every e-mail you receive, you set up an expectation that will require you to stay glued to your computer at all times.  And when you expect others to respond the same way, you are condemning them to that existence as well.

E-mail is designed to allow people to focus on the things that are truly important and respond when the time is right.  If something requires immediate attention, stop in and talk to the person, pick up the phone and call, or if you must, send a text.  You’ll find, at least for the first two options, that the experience will be more fulfilling than a rapid e-mail exchange.

Don’t use e-mail as instant messenger.  Let it do the job it was meant to do.