Nothing has had such a transformative influence on the world of work than email. Forget about the Industrial Revolution – history will show that there was life before email and then there was life after email.
Most knowledge workers today spend their working life living inside their email client and they use it organise and deliver nearly every aspect of their daily work. Many of us will see this as a good thing. After all, everything can be done so much faster these days right?
Hold on just a second.
A recent study in Australia suggests that “The average Australian employee spends less than two-and-a-half days per week actually doing their job. The rest of the time is spent navigating a virtual forest of information”. The same study found that half of the respondents claimed that on average, only about 50 per cent of their emails were relevant to getting their jobs done.
Information Overload (or Information Rage as the above study calls it) accounts for huge inefficiencies and productivity issues in the workplace. For example, the time spend dealing with spam emails alone costs an estimated $17bn to $21bn in lost productivity every year in the US.
Academics, consultants and assorted subject matter experts offer a variety of solutions. Email free days, email manifestos, formal training sessions and ‘how to’ guides and are some I have stumbled across recently.
My personal favourite – and I like to think I came up with this one – is more campaign based. The campaign would revolve around ones acceptance of individual and personal responsibility for being a net receiver rather than a net sender of email.
You simply have to ensure that every working day you send fewer emails than you receive. What could possibly be easier – and imagine the impact that could have if we all did it?
The most recent public declaration of my personal pledge to the campaign was a month ago here on twitter 😉