Email work is real work

Danyel asked me for some clarification on one of the points I made in my Email Overload Scale blog entry.  I wrote "But, more importantly, businesses need to understand the impact that
excessive use of email can have on overall productivity and create an
overall corporate email usage strategy that takes that into account.

His question was what it was I thought they should actually do then to communicate tasks – send less email?  Have less tasks (YESYESYES!!!)? What?

Here’s what I replied:

What I was referring to here was that companies often do not seem to recognize somewhat ad-hoc work generated within email as “real work.”  I see this in many situations where a company will be working on a project off a project plan (in my case, this is generally in the context of software development companies or consulting firms) and schedule the activities of a team based on the “assigned” tasks they have from that plan.  The reality, however, is that most people have two sets of things eating up their time – a set of “real” project tasks (customer work, development work, sales leads, marketing collateral, etc) that is the core, and a parallel set of tasks that are generated in a more ad-hoc fashion via email.  Not recognizing that second set of tasks when running a business is imo a large reason for projects running behind schedule and people feeling overwhelmed and overworked.

So, when I speak of businesses recognizing this, I’m talking about treating email as another resource usage mechanism and managing it just like all other aspects of a project plan.

To do this means incorporating a level of metrics and measurement into email and integrating this into broader business planning, definitely incorporating some concept of scoping as you allude to regarding sizes of tasks.

Which brings up the interesting topic of metrics and measurement and how much awareness we really have about where our time is spent (besides the fact that we know it just disappears).  I’ll give some initial thoughts on this in my next post. 

BTW, since we’re in alpha mode and I’m supposed to be helping out with a lot of testing (which I love SO MUCH), I suspect my blogging frequency will increase dramatically over the next few weeks.

2 Responses to “Email work is real work”

  1. Brad Meador says:

    Interesting point. When I was consulting at a large cable operator, I was responsible for building out project plans and managing both internal employees and external consultants. Though I had several internal employees who were “dedicated” to my projects, I was instructed when building project plans to assume that internal employees were only available 5 hours/day. The other three hours/day were to be used on this Ad-hoc work you discuss, including meetings, administrative duties, etc.. On the one hand I thought it was progressive that they understood where their employee’s time was really spent, on the other it was shocking to see that they endorsed the fact that their folks were only slightly more than 60% productive on the tasks they were assigned.

  2. Brad,
    I think if more people were actually 60% productive, a lot more would get done in the workplace.