Selva Prakash
Figuring Out

Figuring Out

Why do we Hate Emails?

Emails Drive our Day in (Remote) Office. But why do we feel dreaded by it?

Selva Prakash's photo
Selva Prakash
·Jan 8, 2022·

3 min read

Why do we Hate Emails?

Everyone's perfect day in office would be one where they spend least number of time in emails (and in meetings, of course). But aren't emails meant to improve our productivity? Why do we hate reading so many emails? My thoughts and observations based on what I've experienced.

TL; DR

Emails are becoming like Big Data. The 3 V's of Big Data are getting increasingly applicable to emails as well. It's getting too big and varied to process for human brains. We've started glance.email to work on this problem. Join us in our Discord Channel for more ideas.

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Image: https://bigdataldn.com/

Volume

Do you know that an average office worker gets 121 emails per day?. That's a LOT. We have to read that many emails and have to act on many of them and also respond to some of them as well apart from doing our other office activities that are not directly linked to these emails.

Variety

Great emails KISS (Keep it short and Simple). But this is not the norm. We cannot expect every one to be experts in writing and deliver the message in short and crisp manner. There are very lengthy ones which take lot of time with a final take away of few lines. We have no choice but to read most of them if not all. This makes reading emails real time-sucker with very low ROI of our time.

Previews and Subjects are a way to find what the bigger message is. But they are often not enough. Preview is mostly first 2 lines of the body and obviously they are not the core of the message. Subjects is just that - like a topic of the message. Especially in lengthier threads Subject value is near zero.

The other aspect of Variety is the context itself. We get emails from our team mates on 10 different topics, HR on new Policy Change, Corporate on the Quarterly Results and what not. When we check mails in the morning, our brain just switches context across N different contexts. Our brains are not that good in switching contexts . This leads to we forgetting some emails over the others. And good luck with not forgetting the one from your manager, reminding you on a mail he sent yesterday.

Velocity

Emails keeps coming. They don't wait for us to complete our current tasks. We click on the new mail notification in between our current tasks. We deviate from current tasks to read the new task. If that comes up as a priority we switch over to that. What happens to the previous task? It hangs up in the air wishing to get attention later and hoping no new emails comes. Again - Context switching which are not good at.

What can we do about it?

OK. We have all these problems. Do we have a solution? We are working on it. We know it is not an easy problem to be solved. It is not just a technical problem that we can code our way out of it. It involves changes to the way we consume emails, write emails and how we act on it.

We are starting small in glance.email to change the way we consume emails. We aim to provide a better way to read emails by providing Dashboards on the email data. We want to integrate AI into emails so that it can summarize the emails for us. We have many more ideas that we are brainstorming. Obviously, it is a bigger challenge that will need lot of brains to solve. If you have any idea, pleas share it in the comments or come join our discord channel. Hope to see you there :-)

cover image courtesy : Patrick Amoy

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