Personal Blog Post:

How Do People Deal With Their Email Load ?

One of my resolutions this year is to get on top of my emails as I know I'm fast developing a reputation for being uncontactable. If you are bothering to even read this blog then chances are at some stage you have been a victim - suffering either a complete lack of response or one well beyond that 3 day limit most people consider acceptable. For this I sincerely apologise. It is a priority problem and I have been working on and studying it for the last few months now. However, its just gone February and I already have 147 unanswered items in my inbox.

My question is this - how do other people deal with their email load ?

After discarding spam, I get around 50 a day - actually 54 averaged from 01Nov06 to 01Feb07 which includes the Christmas break. Of these, some take only a minute or so whilst others can take up to an hour to read, fire up the right program, work out the right method or find the right information and then write a reasonably coherent response. Over this last 3 month period, give or take some bad record keeping, I've worked out that it takes me on average about 12 minutes per answered email. And this is just the time spent actually reading and writing them - I haven't included any of the time spent on project-based one's that may require several days work before I can reply.

As a result I can only reasonably get through about 5 or 6 an hour. This sounds like a pretty long time per email, however if you timed yourself over any reasonable period I don't think this would be too far off the average.

This would mean spending more than 8 or 9 hours a day answering emails. The best I can usually do with an early start is about 3 or 4 hours - I have a heap of development projects and an endless number of web pages that need work.

I don't even think the answer is getting a secretary or PA as the emails I get are usually pretty specific and even I find most of them hard to answer. If someone were to pre-read them, sort them into some order of priority and then even offer to type out my responses for me, I'm still not sure that it would be that much quicker - I seem to think best actually typing at the keyboard and certainly give a more coherent response that way. Plus, I already dish off quite a few to other people wherever I can.

I also find it very difficult to give a terse response. Maybe I may get through a few more it I just typed a few words, but I must admit that I do feel a bit put out when I receive a very abrupt email response - and I'm a major email offender because I often give no response at all!

I can't be the only one with this problem, so I'm quite keen to see how others deal with it. I'm also keen to know just how long it takes other people on average to answer an email. If you happen to have done a similar study (:)), it would be great to compare notes...

Having said all that, I guess I've just spent 20 minutes writing this so I've effectively notched up another couple of victims. Sorry about that...

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dealing with email volume


Hi Andrew,

I sympathise and have a similar challenge.

I ask people to ring me instead, ask/answer questions, and may send a quick email message afterwards by way of confirmation. I find phone calls - skype for long distance - are quicker and cheaper than email!
I have all but ceased reading on-line magazines, etc, for the time being, else I simply cannot get my work done.

Thank you for the generosity you show in your on-line work.

I bet Cardiff misses you!

Sincerely, Gerard Siero, Burswood, Western Australia.