How Long Email Really Takes

How Long Email Really TakesI used to believe I had email under control, thinking I didn’t spend that much time on it. I took care of the junk when I had a few minutes to kill, leaving the rest for later. As anyone who has sent me something knows, I didn’t take care of much of it later. Nor have I had my email under control, unless under control means fewer than 300 unread messages (not counting those directed into different folders) and fewer than 2000 total emails.

  1. an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder.

The Numbers Aren’t Pretty

Despite unsubscribing from email lists on a somewhat regular basis, I found myself routinely deleting emails without reading them. I’m currently at 689 unread emails and 2627 emails total. That’s just my Inbox. I have another 625 unread emails in a Writing folder. Think I’ll get to those? Only if I don’t do any writing and become a professional email reader.

Oh, and did I mention I have a business account and my writing account? The email numbers above don’t include those two accounts, both of which are also full of emails I think I’ll read in the future.

Change Requires a Baseline Measurement

Since I’m working on better time management, I wondered how long email really takes each day. I intend to find out. I’m saving a day’s worth of emails, which is harder than I thought it was going to be. I had to refrain from opening or deleting even one. When I wanted to confirm a purchase I made, I had to make myself wait. I’m giving this a full 24 hours of untouched email to see the actual time it takes to address it.

Phase 1

The plan starts by doing what I usually do when I have a few spare minutes here and there like when I’m standing in line at the store or sitting in the car waiting for my daughter (who still doesn’t have her driver’s license, and I’m a sucker) to get off work:

  1. Delete emails I have no intention of reading. That includes deleting all the emails that go into my Gmail account and forward to my main account, because I still don’t have Gmail delete after forwarding.
  2. Read and file or read and delete emails I can do quickly.
  3. Save emails for later attention.

Phase 2

The next session will include emails I might take care of that day but need more attention. Those things I would do on most days.

Phase 3

Here is the hard part. These are the emails I would save for later and then don’t get around to doing. Some never get addressed. Some are time-sensitive, and I don’t get to them in time. Finally there are those that remain in limbo, with an intention to do something with them but no plan to make that happen. Measuring these will be more difficult.

That’s The Plan

Hold onto your seats. I know people won’t be able to wait to see the actual numbers, but like those who expect a reply from me through email, it will have to wait. Hopefully, I will do better with this than I do with replying.

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