Chances are you’ve never seen this picture before – it’s the image you get when you reach zero emails in your inbox in Outlook. I don’t mean to brag (I really do), but I see this twice a day on weekdays.
‘I wish’ you are probably thinking. But are you really?
I have three theories about emails. Firstly, they are a status symbol for how busy and important you are. How often have you or a colleague said ‘I’ve been away for one day and I come back to 125 new emails, what is that?’ or something similar.
Secondly, we use our email inbox as a really poor default ‘to do’ list. Don’t have time to do it now, fine, just leave it there for later. So you leave it there for later, and then read it again, but you don’t have time for it now so you just leave it there for later. And so the cycle continues. It’s a terrible to do list because it keeps getting longer, so of course you don’t have time to do it.
Then comes the endless checking. And by endless, I mean up to 38 times an hour endless. I don’t even need to quote a study here, because you’re probably doing it yourself anyway, so don’t need to be convinced.
I came to these theories because it described how I used to approach emails. The first time I got down to zero inbox it scared the living daylights out of me. I actually started to question my own importance and value I was bringing to the work world and felt a bit lost. If I don’t have any emails in my inbox, do people value my opinion? Do I have any work to do? What do I do now?
How crazy is that?
So my third theory is the big one – the avalanche of emails isn’t the problem. We are. As we tend to do with technology, we blame the tool rather than how we use it.
It’s time to change that.