Let’s start with a quick thought exercise. Think about how many emails you receive on a typical day. Fifty? One hundred? FIVE hundred? Now, try to convert that volume of email into an estimate of the amount of time you spend on your email on an average day. Think about it for a bit. Some email notes are immediately discarded, while others require a fair amount of time to read. I’ll venture to estimate approximately thirty seconds on average per email, which thereby sums to just about three hours per day just spent reading and responding to work email.
This figure may strike you as crazy, but a recent poll estimates that U.S. workers spend more than three hours a day on work email matched by another three hours on personal email. That’s more than a third of our waking hours each day interacting with email!
The proliferation of email has been bothering me for a while. I recognize that as a business person, I am overly reliant on it. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly value the medium, but feel like I often default to email even when there are more effective ways of communicating for a given circumstance. I, therefore, embarked upon an experiment. A challenge, of sorts. Could I go a full week without any email for work communication? I didn’t tell people about this, as my goal was to let the week play out organically to see what impact, if any, it had on my work life.
Once the week ended, I reflected on the experience with several observations:
Once this experiment ended, I returned to my use of email, but I use it more judiciously. I hope I can keep it up. Before sending or responding to an email I ask myself if email is the best way to communicate on a given topic, issue or question. I ponder who really needs to be involved at the particular state of the communication. Lastly, I think about how long it will take me to craft the message or for someone else to read it. (If it’s too long, then I probably need to go back to my first question.)
There’s only 24 hours in a day. Let’s use that time well.