Email is gonna get you!

According to a growing number of academics, “technologists” and psychologists, our dependence on e-mail — the need to attend to a constantly beeping in-box — is creating anxiety in the workplace, adversely affecting the ability to focus, diminishing productivity and threatening family bonds. The problem has become so severe that a new crop of entrepreneurs has sprung up with antidotes — which sometimes involve creating more e-mail…

Tony Wright, a software developer in Seattle who recently launched (in beta form) RescueTime, a program that tracks how users spend their time on the computer, has found that 38% of office workers’ time is spent on communication applications such as e-mail…

E-mail backlash started in earnest last year with “no e-mail” Fridays at companies such as Intel, U.S. Cellular and Deloitte & Touche. But popular opinion has it that this turned out to be not much more than a Band-Aid…

Lately, a mini-industry has sprung up around finding solutions to e-mail overload.

Then there are those who are just throwing up their hands. Case in point: Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University Law School professor. Four years ago, Lessig reportedly declared “e-mail bankruptcy.” After spending 80 hours going through his in-box, he simply gave up and sent out an apologetic note to all his unanswered correspondents explaining that he could not respond. If they answered that note, he’d pay special attention.

Lessig could not be reached for comment on this article — not even by e-mail.

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One comment

  1. Morey

    The solution to this is actually pretty easy: As with a television set, leave it off unless there is something specific that you want to watch. In the case of e-mail, set aside a time of day– an hour or whatever it takes– to read and respond to all your pending e-mail. Then leave the e-mail client closed (or if you use webmail, don’t log in) for the rest of the day.

    People have this idea that they must hear a *ping* every time someone sends them an e-mail. Why? They don’t hear a ping every time someone sticks a letter to them in a mailbox.

    If someone in a hurry asks, “Why didn’t you answer my e-mail sooner?”, tell them you were reading. Hopefully you will be telling the truth.

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