This Is Insane: You Spend 1/3 of Your Time in the Office Checking Email

How’s this for a familiar scenario? You wake up, turn your alarm off, and, bleary-eyed, you pour yourself a cup of coffee with one hand while the other scrolls through your inbox to see what you missed in the hours that you were sleeping.

Maybe you answer one; maybe you don’t. If your commute involves public transportation, you no doubt find yourself alerted by new email notifications. You reply or plan to reply later in the day. Once in the office, you open your inbox again. Checking your to-do list, you see that you have a few follow-up messages to write.

And so the day goes: There is no inbox zero. You’re caught up in a nasty web of sending and receiving. Does it ever stop?

A Canadian study released a couple of months ago discovered that no, not really (even though I’m sure you knew that was a rhetorical question). In fact, their findings revealed that you spend one-third of your time in the office on email and 50% of it when you’re working at home. Not surprising but still notable is the fact that “30% of that time, the emails are neither urgent nor important.”

Here’s the math on those stats: “11.7 hours spent at work and 5.3 hours at home.” This isn’t some days. It’s not, say, the day you return from a two-week summer vacation. It’s every day. And if those aren’t sobering numbers, I don’t know what is.

To break it down further, the researchers found that “workers send and receive an average of 86 work-related emails at work and 25 from home.”

That’s a ton of email!

How are you getting anything done if you’re buried in answering, replying, forwarding, responding again, looping this person in, and following up? The answer, I’m sure, is that you’re not.

So what can you do to spend less time in your inbox? Identify your biggest pain points and make it a goal this week to work on addressing them.

Does your boss send you non-urgent messages after hours and on weekends? This advice explains how to approach this tricky subject and speak to him about this practice.

Are you on an ongoing group email chain full of short responses? If so, move it to a chat room.

Are you in a hurry to reach inbox zero, resulting in responding to people as soon as you hear the ping? Respond only to urgent messages and leave everything else for the end of the day.

Do you feel like most of your messages aren’t important? Take control of the situation by deleting anything that require no response and unsubscribing from newsletters that have no bearing on your work.

Are you spending endless amounts of time responding to people with the same questions. Compose canned responses to save time and brain power. Muse writer Kayla Matthews’ template suggestions are perfect for five common situations.

It’s your inbox, after all. How you choose to operate it on your end ultimately plays a huge role in the negative impact it can have on your life. If you value your time and appreciate the well-being and sense of satisfaction that’s derived from being productive, it’s up to you to turn those shocking numbers around.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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