Remember the sound of those famous words coined by AOL in 1989? In those days, we logged into our personal computers, waited for the agonizingly slow dial-up internet to connect, and anxiously anticipated receiving electronic mail (email). What an exciting evolution it was to receive correspondence from an old friend or a family member without the hassle of the post office or a fax machine!
Fast forward a couple of decades, and email is no longer a personal pleasure, but a business staple of our professional lives. In a 2014 panel survey, the Pew Research Center determined that 61% of working internet users (94% of the population) consider email “an important [communications and information] tool for doing their jobs.”
Most of us default to email, thinking it is the quickest and most convenient form of workplace communication. At one point in time, this thought process was probably true. However, today dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of emails from people who are all seeking quick responses saturate our inboxes. This results in more and more of our time being interrupted to read and respond to all of these messages.
In a 2012 study, the McKinsey Global Institute established that “the average interaction worker spends an estimated 28% percent of the workweek managing email.” That is nearly 13 hours of a standard 40-hour workweek! Not to mention that each time tasks such as email interrupt our work, it takes us approximately 20 minutes to refocus on the work we were doing before the interruption.
When you add up the time it takes to manage your inbox throughout the workday plus the production time lost stopping and starting tasks, we have to ask ourselves: Is email really the quickest and most convenient form of communication? Unfortunately, the answer is not clear. Conflicting studies support both sides of the argument.
So what can we do to spend less time managing our emails? LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner provides some great tips in his article 7 Ways to Manage Email so It Doesn’t Manage You. His tips include:
- Managing read and unread email
- Establishing time blocks for answering email
- Considering word choice to write clearly and concisely
- Assessing what types of information are appropriate for email communication
Also, consider hosting a What’s Your Email Reputation? workshop to learn more about using email efficiently and effectively. By integrating some of these tips and receiving some targeted training, we can reduce the dread of our oversaturated inboxes, increase our productivity, and perhaps even relive the excitement we used to feel when we heard, “You’ve got mail.”