A new survey commissioned by Intermedia has found that 94 percent of respondents feel that receiving 50 e-mails a day sets the limit between a manageable number and being overwhelmed. And one in five already receives an unmanageable number.
Gender also made no difference in the perception that 50 e-mails or fewer is an optimal number most people can comfortably deal with. You can read the summary of the results here, which also offers some tips to help overstretched workers cope.
Some Suggestions to Alleviate the Problem
While I don't imagine that there is a single solution that can resolve the challenge highlighted here, I do have a number of suggestions to help inundated employees cope. One way to reduce the volume of e-mail would be to eliminate spam, which adds no value and wastes time. On this front, I've written about how SMBs can implement spam filtering, as well as the merits of a hosted anti-spam solution.
Of course, while it is inevitable that e-mail will end up being the channel used to facilitate communication for the majority of your work, it isn't actually the work we are paid to do. You certainly can't knock off after you finish replying to your mails, an idea I explore in "Tips to Boost Your Productivity."
The workstation of today with its modern user interface and Web-hosted applications would have been completely unrecognizable to the computer users of five years ago. Obviously, we need to move with the evolving tools and processes to remain productive. In "The Productivity Action Plan for the Desktop," I wrote about some tips that could help you better cope with the myriad distractions of multiple electronic channels.
Finally, you might want to improve your work productivity by getting an additional display monitor. I know I just mentioned that e-mail isn't really your work, but I want to say that leaving the e-mail client open in another screen can save a fair amount of time --and frustration -- in unnecessary toggling between multiple windows.
I want to conclude by saying that with the right tools and judicious application of techniques for dealing with e-mails, you might well be able to surpass the 50 e-mails a day barrier without feeling overwhelmed.