How often do you process your e-mail?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
The folks at Ferris Research suggest that it's best to process your e-mail 2-4 times a day:
The best email processing strategy is to process email two to four times a day. This reduces the number of interruptions as well as your workload. This policy applies across different work environments and different types of workers. Processing emails twice to four times a day results in minimum worker distraction due to interruptions while keeping the balance between email response time and primary task completion time.



Discussion/Comments (6):

4 times a day

4 times a day, with explicity calendar time slots reserved for doing so. I also put a hard limit on how much time I spend processing e-mail in any one time slot, with as-yet-unprocessed e-mail deferred to the next time slot, lest e-mail senders take over my day, my schedule, and my agenda. Otherwise e-mail and e-mail receipt notification are turned off. I had been trained for decades to instantly respond to any in-bound e-mail, so getting to my current mode of e-mail handling only in prededined time slots was really gut wrenching. But tremendously liberating. Now I can actually work on soemthing for hours at a stretch, rather than my old 5 minutes maximum between interruptions (via e-mail, usually).

Posted at 5/17/2005 9:31:23 AM by Marc

How often do you process your e-mail?

At my computer, it's in the morning when I get to work, at noon, and then at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that dag-blasted blackberry that I'm required to wear goes off all day long. I have to check that each time to make sure it's not an emergency, so I only look at the subject title.

Posted at 5/17/2005 2:19:57 PM by Bert

re: How often do you process your e-mail?

Bert, have you every tried using agents to filter what gets sent to your Blackberry? That would prevent you from getting interrupted for low-priority email or spam.

Posted at 5/17/2005 3:36:05 PM by Eric Mack

How often do you process your e-mail?

I think I've checked email about 87 times today. Does that mean I have room for improvement or what, assuming that you agree with the Ferris recommendation.

Posted at 5/17/2005 9:09:20 PM by Michael Sampson

How often do you process your e-mail?

Actually, make that 88.

Posted at 5/17/2005 9:09:41 PM by Michael Sampson

How often do you process your e-mail?

Eric, great site. Ran into it while researching the M4. Played with a tablet (the C3500) at Circuit City the other day and was instantly hooked on the tablet concept (if not the scalded arm concept on the Averatec).

Regarding email, I agree that users would benefit from more discipline. I have a theory that disparate activities tend to be more efficient when they are spacially and/or temporally isolated from each other. The PC has really destroyed this natural tendency to seperation of activities - when you can do everything on one little box, the mind grows confused. Email is one very important example of this erosion. Eating dinner on the coutch in front of the TV is another. No longer do you "go to the post office" to read mail - with blackberry the post office is everywhere.

That is why especially new users are upset by even trivial UI changes. They have spent so much effort orienting themselves to this confusing, abstract PC world that any little change reminds them of how fragile their understaning really is.

Needless to say I've been preoocuppied by the subject of PC productivity for some time, and could discuss these issues and their implications for hours.

As a technologist (a senior Java programmer by trade), I wonder about how I can use technology to improve the state of things. Of course, informing others of the subtle negative effects of mixing activity types is a good step. But how to seperate activities more proactively? How can the sane, rational Josh prevent the harried, weak minded Josh who in the heat of the days events reaches for the MUA every 5 minutes? Of course, better to not prevent it at all. This sort of application could be a shell replacement that prevents certain applications from launching at certain times. Even more scifi would be to use radio transmitters (perhaps bluetooth) to trigger events assisting the users spacial association. Essentially your computer becomes a "typewriter" in the office, a "tv" in the living room, an "ebook" in the bathroom etc...

Perhaps this isn't practical. But wouldn't it be interesting to find out how users responded?



Posted at 5/25/2005 12:44:31 AM by Josh Rehman

Discussion for this entry is now closed.