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Email Overhead

Email is ubiquitous in the modern work place. It's great but it has some overhead that really adds up when you get too much email.

1. Interruptions. Each email interrupts you. It takes away your focus. Sometimes it might be for a few seconds as you glance at the mail and dismiss it. Sometimes it might be for a few minutes as you read and digest it, even if you make a mental note to follow up on it later. See these articles here and here.

2. Unnecessary emails. Many people get routine mails that they typically delete automatically. They subscribe to mailing lists for the occasional important email but have to ignore all the noise.

3. Untimely emails. Sometimes you get useful emails at the wrong time. You might be too busy with a higher priority item and can't get to this right away or you might not need this information until a later time. Either way, you'll have to put it away to follow up later. This typically involves reading this message again to get the context, if you haven't forgotten about it already and need to be reminded.

4. Incomplete context. You may not have been copied o n all the emails and you may not get the complete story. You can't scour through other people's mailboxes to get the complete story. You have to ask others for the missing pieces. Sometimes you don't even know what you're missing. It takes time and effort and additional emails to get the complete story.

5. Disorganization. Very few people organize their email into folders. Often the inbox is one big pile of information. It's hard to get a snapshot of what's going on for the various topics covered in the emails. Digging through it all to get to the bottom of an issue takes time. People rarely go through all their old email. Often issues that need follow-up stay buried there.

Easy fixes are possible, but are rarely used.