Sent items - a key risk overlooked
Well, let me give you some personal numbers:
2007 - 6.902
2008 - 7.790
2009 - 9.153
2010 - 10.753
2011 - 11.902
These are the numbers of emails I sent from 2006 to 2011 (more on 2012 in a second). It went up an astonishing 72% in 5 years. The good news is that it seems that it went down slightly this year, but it certainly doesn't feel that way yet.
In the beginning of the year, I tried really hard to minimize the amount of emails. In the 365 days of 2011, I apparently sent an average of 32 emails a day. This doesn't sound that much actually, but it includes all Saturdays and Sundays, and all vacations. If the average email takes a minute to write, this is 198 hours, so roughly 10% of my working time. That sounds reasonable. However, many emails are replies to other emails and have attachments that require reading and some level of analysis, so 5 minutes could be a fair estimate as well. That would be 991 hours of email writing and responding, so roughly 50% of my time. Even scarier is to think about all the people reading all of these emails. A few FTE just reading emails from me. Half of the company busy reading the emails from the other half.
Email has become an ever increasing means of communication, now effectively determining everyday office life. This should stop, because it doesn't help productivity, it actually reduces productivity by now. Early 2012 I started attempting to reduce my email stream; I am happy to report it will probably end around 11.000 in this year, so a lot less than last year. So, the line shows the necessary kink: now it needs to go down even more. I hope I succeed and more people will follow. As a few suggestions, you may stop sending 'Thanks' or 'Sure'. Reduce the number of people CC'd. Don't respond to emails where you are CC'd. Just a few thoughts.