You work in an information intensive environment. You feel like a productive person, with a clear idea of how to allocate your time, right? Think twice. According to the research firm Basex, here his how you spend your valuable time: – Interruptions for non-important stuff like non-urgent email, including the time to get back to serious work: 28% of your time – Productive content creation including writing useful stuff: 25% – Meetings (in person, phone or video): 20% – Doing some research for your work (all sources included):15% – Thinking and reflecting:12% Pathetic indeed.
Truth is, information overload is killing us. That’s ranges from unsolicited mails, “reply to all” and various flavors of “thank you!” messages. In this article, The New York Times even mentions the Silicon Valley expression “e-mail bankruptcy”, to describe someone so buried under his unopened e-mail that he has to perform a mass deletion and start over (I recently read somewhere that Marissa Mayer, Google VP for Search Product, said she had some day 800 messages backlog, who can seriously deal with that?). Information overload is hugely costly: Basex estimates at $650bn the drag on the economy and the study quotes Nathan Zeldes, an engineer at Intel who studies computing productivity issues, who said, “At Intel, we estimated the impact of information overload on each knowledge worker at up to eight hours a week.”
Not to mention the pernicious uses of email in the often-permanent sate of war in companies. A friend of mine told me recently : “Where I work, it’s Beirut in the executive offices. People no longer argue or even talk. They do so by email because it’s much better to build a case against someone than having a heated discussion. Files are building up with emails that will be used when needed. Time loss is tremendous, real issues are left aside, everyone spend hours at his desk devising an email strategy”.
Years ago, I had the discussion with Vint Cerf considered as one of the father of the internet (he’s now at Google). Vint explained how a clever use of email was critical for any organization, “and among all the criteria to evaluate my staff, is actually their ability to wisely use email”. Welcome to a new job: meet the email coach….