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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.

karl s's picture

I'm sure that by now...

I'm sure that by now most of the people on 43Folders are familiar with last summer's notorious "emails hurt IQ more than [smoking] pot." You're not? Here's the link http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/04/22/text.iq/.

With that as my inspiration, I try my best to put email on the backburner.

I probably get 100 emails a day. Of those, perhaps 10 matter and are actionable. I try to ignore every little ping while my timer is running and I'm working on the latest Next Action. But it doesn't always work.

I am highly distractable (is that geneitc? or is that why we're all looking to hack our personal suck), so often, I'll stop what I'm doing and check the email. Usually, it's some bulls&*t.

I have found and am wondering if others have found this as well that if I ignore email, and wait until the end of the day to tackle a particular task associated with said email, the task has uh, magically, been taken care of by someone else in my office that couldn't figure out how to solve the issue in the first place.

This isn't to say that I am slacking, in any way (I'm not), it's just that I have priorities and need to take care of them first.

If it's really, really a critical issue, I would expect a phone call or a visit from the person needing assistance.

I try to empty my email box every day - that is, filing emails into folders where they will live archived for future retrievals. (I wish I could do that with Gmail. I hate the long list format.) Those emails that I haven't been able to get to either go into Waiting or Someday folders, while the Next Action emails will sit in my email box until I have completed the action.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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