Tackling Information overload – A Lost Cause?
The very mention of information overload in a digital age is often met with resignation – particularly in larger organisations where people have a daily ‘fire hose’ of information gushing towards them. “It’s just a symptom of the age in which I live”.
The effects of information overload are alarming: stress, slowdown in productivity, bad communication, poor performance, missed time scales, inaccurate work, negative impact on work/life balance….the list goes on.
Strategies for combatting information overload – specifically email - were shared by a group of experts in the IORG*** “Overloaded 2017” web event which Emailogic were pleased to take part in.
This annual event – kindly hosted by IBM - saw speakers, experts and “no-email” evangelists come together to discuss ways of working smarter with information and many practical solutions were discussed during the 2 hour session.
While email has been identified as one of the major culprits, organisations which use other forms of internal communication such as Social Enterprise Systems and Instant messaging also experience this phenomenon.
Marc Powell, Director at Emailogic, was invited to join the panel of IORG last year and has shared many productivity tips and techniques with his fellow members.
Let us just focus on email then. The vast majority of information that we receive via email is not important.
66% of our work based information comes from email yet studies have shown 80% of this is “greymail” – not important, not pertaining to our job roles and certainly not urgent.
According to studies, the average UK worker receives 108 emails per day this equates to 27,000 emails every year. If 80% are greymail this means that we are each receiving a mind boggling 22,118 useless bits of information every year.
Let us apply the Pareto Principle*here: So we each take 30 seconds to deal with each email – even if only to look at the subject line, decide what to do with it (delete, defer, deal with or file). Therefore we are wasting 184.3 hours of our working lives dealing with useless data!**
If you employ people imagine what else you could ask them to do with the wasted 24 days they spend dealing with irrelevant emails?
And it doesn’t stop there.
McKinsey and Company reported that 61% of the non-greymail emails are for information only – so require no action as such.
So it is looking even worse for email. That leaves just 8 of the 108 emails that you receive that actually require your input.
What this means for you also is - rather shockingly – your work life is being dictated by other people’s agendas. So why spend your time dealing with their workload? Why not just concentrate on your own? You will certainly feel happier, less stressed and will definitely be more productive. Your Manager will thank you too.
So if we know this, what can we do to ensure that the 100 or so irrelevant emails that we get in our inboxes every day don’t distract us from our real work?
Here are just 3 strategies to combat email overload:
1. Set up rules and filters to automatically sort the emails that you need from those that you don’t. If you do not know how to do this then ask a colleague in IT to show you how to use your email package Rules.
2. Use the 4D’s to sort, filter and prioritise your email:
We guarantee that 99% of the emails you receive you can deal with using the above principle and 95% of the emails that you file you will not touch again.
3. Set up a simple folder structure. Fewer, fatter folders are much more economic than lots of folders with only a few emails in them. Outlook’s search function is so advanced anyway that you will find the pertinent email in a few seconds.
If you would like to know more about IORG’s work visit the site or call Marc on +44 (o) 7950 340 172
* Pareto principle explained
** 22,118 x 0.5 minutes = 11,059 minutes or 184.3 hours
*** For more information about the work that IORG do around Information overloads visit http://iorgforum.org/
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