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Open Thread: The value and quality of email at work

40% of office workers spend 0.5-3 hours reading poorly written e-mail | IT Facts | ZDNet.com

More with the email research results:

Information Mapping claims that 80% of those surveyed deem email writing skills are extremely or very important to the effectiveness of doing their jobs. 65% of the respondents spend from 1-3 hours per day reading and writing emails, with 40% "wasting" 30 minutes to 3 hours reading "ineffectively" written emails.

Things is, I keep encountering people who get 100, 200, 300, or more actionable emails each day; not cron notifications, bug list CCs, or lunch at Chili's for Suzie from AR's birthday--I'm talking about real emails that require more than a one-line response or represent some kind of non-email work.

What amazes me is how much of people's email seems to be internal to their company, business unit, or direct team. If I ran a company and learned that most of my employees were spending that much time touching internal email, I'd ask my managers: "For how many and which employees is six hours of email each day adding value to the company?" Maybe that's just me.

Understand: I get that email is the way teams communicate on important stuff, but at a certain point, we're back to the guy from Metropolis, aren't we? I realize my view on this stuff is extreme -- I'm a hobo and I work at home -- but you tell me:

  • How efficient is your team and your company at using email?
  • How much of your day is spent dealing with email that does Good Things for your job or helps increase the value of that for which you're paid?
  • How much is spent just sorting, shuffling, and mining?
  • What one change in your team's email culture would most improve the way you work together?

Feel free to elaborate. And feel free to say you love getting all that email. I'd enjoy hearing a range of views on this.

Also: Non-scientific email poll

How many actionable emails do you get each day? That's email that requires more than a one-line response or requests non-email work.

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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