Is your email killing you?

(Something to think about in 300 words or less)

 The average daily dose of business email is 121 messages:

 13% totally irrelevant to you,

20% unnecessarily include you,

54% require no action by you.

Email use increases even as email processing saps productivity, costs money and heightens stress:

15% rise in email traffic since 2011. Even with the introduction of email alternatives like texting and social media options like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat springing up everywhere, the sheer volume of emails continues to rise,

6% of white-collar productivity is used to sort, read, trash or reply to emails,

$7,500-10,000 annual cost per employee to process email, and

Research suggests a positive relationship between frequently checking email and stress levels.

While formal logic wasn’t my strong suit in grad school, what about this logic pattern?

If stress kills, and

We now know that email causes stress,

Is it therefore possible, our email is killing us?

Armed with this unassailable logic, my friend, Moe Ilyas (an Atlanta-based telecom sales executive) and I set out to informally replicate a University of British Columbia study that tied the frequency with which people check email to stress level. We purposefully ignored our emails for one week, committing to check only once a day.

The results?

Moe reported higher productivity levels and greater pro-active control of his day.

Me? I couldn’t stay away; I might have an addiction that requires some type of digital intervention.

After discussing our experiences, we committed to trying it one more time and meeting again to compare notes.

The results?

We have exchanged lots of emails promising one another that we’d follow up real soon…

If you have the self-control, give it a try and let us know how it went for you.




Matt Feiedman, Associated Press, Powered by, August 1, 2014

Thomas W. Jackson, Sharman Lichtenstein. Optimising e-mail communication: the impact of seminar- and computer-based training. International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management, 2011; 7 (2): 197 DOI: 10.1504/IJIEM.2011.039915

Kostadin Kushlev, Elizabeth W. Dunn. Checking email less frequently reduces stress. Computers in Human Behavior, 2015; 43: 220 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.005

Photo: TommL—Getty Images/Vetta