by Gary Beach

Dealing With E-Mail Addiction

May 01, 2006 2 mins
Personal Software

I recently read an article in a business magazine about three busy executives. The writer of the piece asked them how many e-mails they typically receive in a day. They said they average about 150.

One hundred and fifty?! How does that qualify as busy? By lunch, I’ve usually received well over 200 e-mails. I’ve been averaging about 450. Some people I know get more.

Recently, I had an e-mail epiphany. It was triggered when I missed two calls from my boss. And, consequently, a meeting. How did I miss them? It was the 11th e-mail syndrome.

With my BlackBerry font set to eight, my screen displays 10 e-mails. But the e-mail from my boss was—thanks to Murphy’s Law—11th in the queue. Out of sight, out of mind.

All this made me reflect on my e-mail management strategy.

I didn’t have one.

I wasn’t managing e-mail. E-mail was managing me.

My inbox is cluttered with useless e-mail newsletters that I have subscribed to over the years but have never read. Then there are the strings that have nothing to do with me. I spend an average of 30 seconds on each piece of mail, or nearly four hours a day. That’s half of an average work day.

Something had to be done.

So I did it.

I found the “unsubscribe” button on the majority of those newsletters and, like the “easy” button on those Staples commercials, I pushed it.

I still get more e-mails than those “busy” execs, but now I am down to about 200 incoming.

If I could just train myself to use the phone more, or start writing notes by hand, I know the quality of my life would improve.

Write me a handwritten note if you have some thoughts on how to break the e-mail addiction: Gary Beach, CIO Magazine, 492 Old Connecticut Path, Framingham, MA 01701.

I look forward to writing back to my new pen pals.