“We’ve said it on this podcast before: email is a necessary evil.”
That quote is from our friends over Asian Efficiency, an online hub for productivity hackers who want to get as much as they can out of every day.
They recently invited SaneBox’s Vice President of Growth, Dmitri Leonov, to be a guest on their Productivity Show podcast. This topic? How to shift your habits so that necessary evil—email—works for you, not against you.
As recently as a decade ago, phone calls and face-to-face conversations were the dominant forms of communication in most of the business world. Heavy computer, internet, and email usage was only common in certain sectors and job functions.
Fast forward to today, when the average worker sends and receives over 120 business emails per day and spends nearly 30 percent of the workweek managing email. When business email exchanges are combined with personal ones on a global scale, it amounts to 205 billion sent emails each day—a number that is expected to increase over 16 percent to 246 billion emails in 2019. As you may have guessed, this upward trend is a worrisome matter.
Kelly Sue DeConnick conjures up heroes and villains every day. So when her inbox grew out of control and threatened to overtake her sanity, she knew she needed a hero.
A comic book and television writer living in Portland, Ore., Kelly was drowning in emails about her various projects—including comics such as Captain Marvel, Bitch Planet and Pretty Deadly. The relentless stream made her feel, to borrow a metaphor from writer Merlin Mann, like she was living in a rainstorm.
“It’s constant, there’s nothing you can do to stop it, and you cannot catch all the raindrops,” she said. “I just get so much mail, I absolutely cannot keep up with it.”
In addition to her work as a creative professional, Kelly Sue juggles being both a mom and the wife of a fellow comic book writer. With so much to do, she had trouble getting through her legitimate emails each day, much less the low-priority and junk messages. (The garbage does tend to pile up when you’re an early internet adopter who’s had the same easy-to-remember email address for years.)
I think a lot of us have a bad relationship with email. Be honest, how many times have you spent all day in email, feeling productive, only to realize later that you haven’t accomplished anything meaningful? I know I have. We compulsively check and manage our email, wasting valuable time on things that don’t matter.
Some professors thrive on using email to engage students. Take John Whittier-Ferguson, a University of Michigan English professor, whose students email him for help mastering the finer points of essay writing. In any given class, about a third of his students take advantage of his offer to provide e-feedback, each exchanging around 40 meaty emails with him over the course of a term.