Kelvinwright's Blog

postmodern thoughts

Is life too short for so much email?

According to an article in the New York Times, yes.


There is an irony in today’s blog. I sat down this evening, having worked until late, and my intention was to write. The new novel is actually progressing, after an inspirational conversation a week ago with a work colleague. I made the fatal mistake this evening of thinking: “Let’s just check my messages.” And there I remained, trying to delete spam, answer a backlog of emails, facebook messages etc. And here I was, an hour later, nothing written.


It was even more ironic then that I decided to open the New York Times, because my favourite news read (the BBC, naturally) was offline. I came across an article titled: “Life’s too short for so much email.” The inspiration I was seeking yesterday for a blog came calling me today.


When I got back to my desk from lunch this afternoon I actually had a total of no new emails. I assumed my email had gone down; I assumed it wasn’t working… so I checked with a colleague, and hers was working fine. I was just so surprised that nobody has written to me during a whole hour. Email was meant to help us communicate faster, better, and smarter. Now the typical email is: “What time was the meeting again?”; “How’s that report going?”; “What’s the latest on blah blah blah” I’m actually lucky though in my job. Email use seems to be very well controlled.


According to the article in the New York Times, in 2010, 107 trillion emails were sent!!!  There were 3.1 billion active email accounts in the world in 2011, and that on average corporate employees sent and received 105 emails a day!!!! I thankfully don’t receive 105 emails a day, but for those that do, are they really all that important? Do 105 daily emails really make your job better? Do they improve communications and make them smarter? Or have we become lazy? “I’ll send out 20 emails, take a coffee, smoke, and then see who’s responded.” Is email replacing the phone? Where phone calls would once have been made, it is now quicker, although not always better to send out a barrage of emails. The author of the article in the New York Times states that last year he decided to try to reach the mythical zero emails in his in-box, spending countless hours replying to a backlog of messages. He made it, and found out that the next morning, all his messages had been replied to!


As someone once told me, “The problem with email is that there’s no off-switch.” Unlike Skype, instant messenger, or a mobile phone. The email arrives in your in tray, and there it waits, and waits, and waits, and waits. Far from helping, email actually makes things more stressful, rather than helpful, if not well managed.


Somebody else told me once: “If companies charged us for every email we sent, then we’d suddenly start to use email smarter.” Maybe that’s the solution.


July 11, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,


  1. Hi Kelvin – I guess you’re learning the valuable lesson of focus. When you sit down to write – sit down to write. Switch everything off apart from your brain, laptop and music. Do not look anywhere else. Do not respond to people trying to ask you a question or discuss some inane point of thought because they think it doesn’t matter to distract you for a moment.

    Comment by davidjrodger | July 12, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi David. Indeed. A valuable lesson has been learned! Although, had I not clicked on email, then I wouldn’t have got mad, which meant I wouldn’t have scanned the news sites to calm me down again, I wouldn’t have found the article in the NYT, and I wouldn’t have written this blog……

      Comment by Kelvin Wright | July 12, 2012 | Reply

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