How much do you waste on email?

Jul 08 2016 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

How much time does the average employee spend on email each day? Youíd think thatís a simple question, demanding a simple answer. But itís not.

When I went to the magic Google Machine, and asked that question, the top five answers not only differed, but answered an entirely different question: ďhow much time is wasted on email each day?Ē

Now, this implies two problems. The first is that nobody really knows the answer to how much time we spend on email because it varies from person to person and day to day (but - spoiler alert - itís a lot).

The second is that there is an implication that email, by definition, wastes time. Call me sentimental, but I donít think ALL email wastes time, but boy Iíll grant you it can feel like it.

In terms of how much we spend, the estimates range from six hours a day (admittedly Huffington Post includes personal email in this number, and doesnít restrict it to work hours) to somewhere between a third (The Atlantic magazine) and a half (pretty much everyone else) reading and responding to email.

Thatís a lot of time, money and brain cells expended. Hereís some simple math.

Letís assume youíre making a salary of $50,000 per year. (That seems high as a base, but letís face it a lot of the real work like cooking your burgers and changing bandages is done by people who are too busy to deal with email as part of their jobs - this is largely a white collar problem). It also makes for easy multiplication because thatís $25 per hour. If we figure an eight hour work day (stop laughing) and a third of that is spent on email, thatís 2.64 hours a day. Thatís $66 per work day, or $1,320 a month. That by the way is purely hourly cost, it doesnít include lost productivity, rework or mental health costs.

Now letís think about how much of that time and money is truly wasted. It seems endless; spam, Ďkeeping you in the loopí emails (despite your desire to escape the loop), emails thanking you for your answer to their last email, it just keeps coming and sucking up your life. So depending on the day, your work and your mood, somewhere from another third to a half is, well, letís call it Ďunproductiveí, rather than Ďwastedí. Thatís a lot of time and money.

How do we stop email from slowly draining our will to live?

  • Take the 30 seconds to unsubscribe to newsletters, ads and other things that you no longer want. If it does nothing more than shrink the volume of email, youíll still feel awfully proud of yourself
  • Check email only a few times a day. Youíd be surprised how much ďurgentĒ correspondence really isnítÖ. and you can often combine several emails in one if you take the time. At least finish what youíre working on before diving into your inbox.
  • Send Instant Messages or pick up the phone! Email is not a synchronous tool, nor is it very good for immediate problem-solving involving multiple people. Use it properly.
  • You know all this. Quit whining and do it.

Email has its uses. But it can, like so much in life, be used for good or evil. Thatís a choice we all make.

more articles

About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. Heís passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using todayís virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leaderís Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.