An interview on email mastery

Last week, I conducted an email interview with Marsha Egan. 

Her book, Inbox Detox, is loaded with great advice on how to maximize email's potential while avoiding many of its pitfalls. 

TIM: What is the biggest mistake people make over email?  

MARSHA: The biggest mistake is, by far, that they "allow" email to manage them. People check their email on average 70 times daily, when 2-5 times is really all that is needed in an average working environment. Every time they check, it takes time. Even worse is that they allow themselves to be interrupted by the ding and flash of a newly received message. With workers receiving 80-150 messages a day, these interruptions can cause a huge productivity drain that many workers don't even see. It's like a death of a thousand cuts… Productivity is being sapped minutes and seconds at a time. The solution is decide that you own your email, which then allows you to turn off the dings and flashes, and go into your inbox when YOU decide to, and hopefully it won't be more than 5 times a day.


TIM: How much time a day does the average worker waste due to bad email management?  

MARSHA: This one is all over the ballpark.  Some people intuitively manage their email extremely well, so there is minimal waste, and others are continually distracted. My estimate, in averages, is one to two hours daily of wasted productivity. When you accept that each interruption takes an average of 4 minutes to recover, if a worker looks up ONLY 15 times a day at the ding of an arriving email, the recovery time for only 15 interruptions is 60 minutes or one hour. People are currently receiving 5 to 10 times that number, so recovering from those interruptions alone should average between 1-2 hours. Another way to look at it is – how much more time is it taking for the average worker to accomplish the same amount of work? It is not unusual to see throngs working through lunch, coming in early or staying late, or giving up a day of their weekend to catch up.


TIM: What’s the #1 way a manager can reduce incoming emails without getting ‘out of touch’ with his/her direct reports? 

MARSHA: The best way for a manager to stay in touch with his or her direct reports AND reduce the amount of email received is to talk to people. Novel approach, heh? Going back to the old Tom Peters MBWA – Managing By Walking Around – is still effective. We've got to reinstitute the culture that business requires dialogue, and email is not dialogue.  Email is a conveyance of information. So, by encouraging workers to talk things out, and by modeling the behavior, the manager will stay in touch. An added comment here is that the more trustful the organization and its people are, the less CYA email will be sent. So building a culture of trust will also minimize all those emails that subordinates send just to cover their butts. That requires dialogue, too.

For more great information on email mastery, visit EmailAtoZ

If you are interested in bringing email excellence or etiquette training to your company, contact me for more information