It’s not the amount of email I *receive* that’s the problem…


…it’s the amount I send.


This was brought home to me five minutes ago. I’m sat at home, digging my way out of my inbox (trying to reach Zero Email Bounce), and somehow I ended up in my Sent Items folder. “Wow”, I thought, “that seems kinda full”.


One Outlook search folder later (sent:today from:me) and I’m stunned to find that I’ve sent 47 emails today. Of those, 45 have been work-related. I’d need to average one email every 10 minutes, with another 10 minutes off for lunch, to send those during an 8-hour work day. And yet I also squeezed in three meetings, several hallway discussions, and some work on our team infrastructure.


At least now I know where the day went.


(If you want to learn how to cope with incoming email, I like Stever Robbins’ “Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload” and Ole Eichorn’s “The Tyranny of Email“. If anyone knows how to cut down on sending email, I’m all ears. Although “stop working with interesting projects and passionate people” isn’t an option!)

Comments (5)

  1. Frans Bouma says:

    Most time in sending emails is wasted on being too verbose. Most of the time, people ask 2 or 3 questions and you can answer them in 2 or 3 lines each, or you can explain abit more, and you’re typing 10 or 20 lines per question.

    The person who asked is helped, but that’s also true with the 2-3 line approach. The downside of being too verbose is also that not even you waste more time typing email, people also will see you explain more than they ask for, so they will ask you MORE questions and often try less themselves.

    Being less verbose will take down the amount of time spend on an email dramatically.

    Then you also have the pests who ask 10 questions or torture you with every request for comment. Decline! Simply ignore 9 questions and answer 1, or don’t reply at all. That sounds rude but would you answer 50 times 10 questions from people in real life face-to-face? No, and neither would these people ask you those questions. Just because they’re too lazy looking in manuals, the memos they got, ask their co-workers face-to-face etc… they send an email… like a 10 page doc and "Please your comments on this…"..

    It’s all about priority: answer the questions which need your attention, delay / ignore the rest. It’s office-fluff.

  2. omen says:

    What you need to communicate, you need to communicate. Once you separate the essential communications from the fluff, the question remaining is "Is email the best way to communicate this?"

    If it is really urgent then a phone call, an instant message or a personal visit might be the best way. If it is important and it is important that it be permanent or semi-permanent but it isnt urgent then you can blog it, post it at the bulletin board, file it as a formal record, etc. and let your "audience" read it at their convenience. If its important but its not urgent and its very transient then email might be the best way.

    If its not important and its not urgent well its probably just a social, personal communication that you can do during "downtime".

    My 2C =)

  3. A couple of good articles regarding the art of managing email. [via: Jonathan Hardwick: Shipping Version One] Tips for Mastering E-mail overload Change This :: The Tyranny of Email Potentially the best line is in the first article and has…

  4. omars says:

    You cut down on sending mail by:

    1) walking to that person’s office and telling them what you want.

    2) IM’ing them using Office Communicator

    of course this only works for some types of email.

  5. jonathanh says:

    I like Frans’ approach. If I still send 45 emails a day, but only take 2 minutes per email, that’ll still leaves me with 6.5 hours a day to actually get work done. And while I’ll probably have to send a few *more* emails (because some people won’t get the message the first time round), it should still be a net win. Interesting experiment. I’ll try it 🙂

    Omar – sadly, only about 1/4 of my team are on IM. And going to talk to them is definitely going to take more than 10 minutes, unless I really practice my just-here-to-ask-a-question-thanks-bye social skills. Hmmm. Maybe that’ll be experiment #2…