Let’s face it; we’re all drowning in the stuff. With over 4 million emails being sent every single second and the average full time employee in the western world now receiving an average of 186 emails per day; it’s not surprising that we’re all struggling to cope. There’s a pandemic out there and email is spreading and piling up at an inbox near you at a virulent, frightening rate.

Imagine reading and responding to those 186 emails, each within just a 2 minute timeframe? You’d be spending over 6 hours a day on email alone. In the real world, we’re spending way too much time writing, reading and sending email, and we’re simply not coping as a result.

Let’s get spam out of the way first; although spammers are bloody annoying and there’s way too much of it, I believe the problem lies elsewhere. Mostly we’re all using a spam detection tool, and these for the most part work very well at keeping the bad stuff out. I use spamarrest to handle my troublesome or weird stuff, yet still have to visit my ‘unverified’ box just in case there’s an enquiry from a person I’ve never dealt with or from an obscure client email address that might result in some business.

So, where does the problem lie?

It’s us, dammit! We’ve created this dilemma for ourselves, without even realising it. The truth is that we’ve learned to respond like Pavlov’s dog every time an email ‘pings’ into our inbox. Think back to ringing land lines and mobiles; where over the years we came to believe every call had to be urgent or important, and therefore instantly answered. This ‘learned’ (read normal) behaviour has now seamlessly segued into the world of email, and an incoming mail is equally something we simply ‘have’ to see, read and respond to at that very moment it arrives. Honestly though? How many really urgent phone calls ever came in? How many absolutely essential calls have you answered in your life?

We’re now writing and sending way too much email ourselves. Penned like aerogram letters of old, we write screeds of stuff, and ‘BCC’ it to everyone in the hope of covering all the options. It’s pollution, people! Could you actually write an email in three sentences or less? And only send it to the people who really need to see it? Could you apply some basic ground rules, and only look to read and respond to emails once at both the beginning and end of the day?

Of course you could. But you don’t. Or won’t.

The quest for ‘inbox zero’? Frankly it’s a pipe dream, unless you start right now on your own inbox. Sit down in front of your screen. Apply the basic premise of identifying what’s important. Next, delete everything else – and with what’s left; either answer them or delegate them. Repeat twice a day, each day thereafter. And get back to your real business.

Michael Jackson is a globally sought after conference speaker on the subjects of change and future business trends. He can be found at www.theothermichaeljackson.com, where there are links to all his social media activity and a bunch of 30 second business videos.

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