Why? And, more importantly, What can we EACH do to reduce this problem?
For years, we have been coaching people, teams, and organizations on the importance of managing email. We have helped countless groups establish protocols that have helped to increase productivity and to unchain people from their ever-growing inboxes.
But it’s not enough. Current research has shown that the average amount of time that each person spends during their workday on email is growing.
We need to get the word out, and here’s an excellent resource that can help you today.
It’s called the Email Charter.
The core principle in action is that every single one of us has to take responsibility for reducing the amount of time spent on email by our colleagues. Here’s problem, as viewed through this lens:
For each email that you write, you are creating “work” for others. Our instincts tell us it takes longer to write than to read, so reading an email should take less time than it did to write it, right? Wrong. It takes longer to respond to an email than it does to write. Here’s why:
When you “check your mail”, your process is more apt to be like: scan your inbox; decide what to open; open it; read it; think about whether you need to respond or not; compose the response; edit your response; send your response.
Every time you engage in this process, you are removing yourself from your flow of work, you are diverting your attention and it takes time to regain that rhythm.
Now, think about this — every time you compose an email message, you are creating the same interruption of work for someone else. Here are some very common email “habits” that add to the overloading of our inboxes and unnecessary consumption of our collective time:
- Open-ended questions that are time-consuming to answer. For example, “What are your thoughts on this?”, “How do you think we should proceed?” Quick to ask, not-so-quick to answer.
- “CC” – so easy to click and add multiple recipients, but each additional recipient exponentially increases the amount of time your email is consuming.
- “FW” – forwarding and/or cutting and pasting text from other resources creates an increasing burden of time as your recipient scrolls, reads, and sorts through to find the salient points.
- Links and videos – easy to add, but each link and video can take minutes to view.
We love the internet. We love our email. It takes an iron will not to linger and peruse all the wonderful, distracting nuances of the world wide web, and to share our discoveries with others, and they with us. “Just copy a link, paste, and send … and boom, the world’s cognitive capacity takes another hit!”
All of these things contribute to the massive consumption of our work week. We need to get it under control and we need to do so now. I don’t recall any of my job descriptions (ever) including “checking email” as a line item, and yet, when I’m not careful, it can consume my day.