So we know that the average worker spends 13 hours a week — 28 percent of office time — on email. Which multiplies out to (eek) 650 hours a year.
But what does that time investment look like as physical — well, “physical” — output? How does it amass as words typed and sent and otherwise generated? Here’s one estimate: 41,638 words.
To put those 41,638 discrete pieces of communication in perspective, that word count, in the aggregate, is roughly equivalent to a novel that is 166 pages in length…. slightly greater than The Old Man and the Sea (127 pages long), slightly less than The Great Gatsby (182 pages), and just about equal to The Turn of the Screw (165 pages).
For most of us, instant email back-and-forth is not nearly as important as we make it out to be. Yes, email is where a lot of our most important communication happens. But most email isn’t something that requires you to drop everything the moment something new pops into your inbox. That you think so is an indication that email is probably screwing up a lot of your day.
“Here’s the problem. See that big text box in which I type hundreds of emails per week? Well, it is obscured by chat windows that I use thousands of times per week. The two basic ways that I communicate are in direct conflict with each other… Which leads me to the key question: what happened, Google?”
“CEO Thierry Breton of the French information technology company said only 10 percent of the 200 messages employees receive per day are useful and 18 percent is spam. That’s why he hopes the company can eradicate internal emails in 18 months, forcing the company’s 74,000 employees to communicate with each other via instant messaging and a Facebook-style interface.”
Our brains are just hard-wired to respond to emails because society has taught us it’s rude not to. We think of them as letters — even the icons for apps like Gmail and Mac Mail make us think of them this way. It’s rude not to respond to a letter.