Email overload

One of the increasing challenges communicators face is email overload. I don’t mean spam, I mean legitimate email correspondence. Email which nominally should be read, considered and actioned. Once you start getting over 300 emails a day, all hope of that vanishes. If you assume it takes an average of sixty seconds to read and reply to each email, that’s five hours per day on simple email triage.

Many in our profession get way in excess of that amount of mail per day. Much of it is just carbon copy email – for our reference. But the volume of cc-ed fyi email rather prevents its purpose. A useful experiment is to color code email by category of sender – internal, partner, client, media etc. This helps navigate to important email straight away. I’ll bet internal email consititutes a large proportion of most inboxes. You don’t want to spend the day communicating with your own company.

Email is a great but dangerous tool. The prevalence of the Blackberry and similar email devices extends email time into previous mail deadzones, increasing volumes. But if your Blackberry is also your cell phone, it means you can’t escape email’s icy finger. The ‘winky’ red light will always flash its siren call.

It’s easy to become email’s slave, not its master. Thankfully technologies such as central intranets, internal blogs and wikis have the potential to cut down the amount of email we get on a daily basis. I suspect it’ll get worse before it gets better.

Long live the phone call – it’s like an interactive email.