12 Jun, 2007
Drinking from the firehose
I hate email.
You see, I get around 300-500 emails every day at work.
About a third of these are generated by automated server processes and are filtered into folders so I can keep an eye whether or not those processes were successful or not. Another third are sent from various applications that my teammates and employees use to initiate and confirm yet more processes. These, too, can be filtered into folders to keep track of them.
This means that I actually have to read (and potentially respond to) around 100-160 emails a day.
Yes, I think this is pretty insane, considering that I don’t work in customer service or deal directly with the public in a significant way. 90% of these emails are internal communications. Half of these internal communications could be completed by walking 50 yards or less and actually speaking to a person.
So, 100-160 emails a day. That means I need to process one email every 4 or 5 minutes (assuming I average 9 or 10 hours at work each day, which is about right).
That seems crazy to me, so I don’t actually operate like that.
I skim emails in batches of 30-40 several times a day, focusing on the subject line and the first few sentences of the message. I usually determine whether or not I need to read the whole email in about 3-4 seconds based upon the subject line, who is CC’ed, and the first few sentences. Sometimes I need to respond, sometimes I don’t.
I love email (yeah, I know I said I hate email earlier).
You see, I can respond to many more people in email than I could possibly call in a day. I can also eliminate the need for frivolous meetings with a simple email. I’m not sure my job would be possible without email. It would certainly be much more difficult.
Something else I love and hate at the same time is instant messenger. Our whole department uses a popular instant messenger client at work to enable us to contact each other in the blink of an eye. This is mostly used to ask short concise questions and get fast responses. It’s faster than email and much more informal. I like that part.
When 6 people are trying to message you at once it’s a bit chaotic with all the flashing document windows in your toolbar. I hate that. Here’s an easy solution for that. Only login to your instant messenger when you want to use it. Then log off when you are done. That way you don’t have 20 people virtually tapping you on the shoulder all day long.
Amidst all this communication, you will need to get some actual work done, right?
What are they paying you to do anyhow? Get back to work!