Why I Emptied my Email Inbox?

For 2012, I resolved to keep my email inbox empty.  You might ask, “Why would anyone consider taking on such a challenge?”

The reason is simple: I feel like I have been losing the battle with my email . . . and it doesn’t seem to be getting better and there is data to support this uneasy feeling.  According to The Radicati Group’s Survey: Corporate Email, 2011-2012:

The number of emails sent per day continues to increase, despite growing use of social networking and instant messaging. In 2010 users were receiving an average of 72 emails per day, and sending an average of 33 emails per day.

The data is alarming, but what is more concerning is the underlying cause of the rapid and seemingly endless increase.  Chris Anderson‘s Washington Post piece, How to stop email overload? Think before you hit send, provides some insight into the root cause of this phenomenon.

Why is e-mail volume getting ever worse? I believe it’s because of a simple fact: E-mail is easier to create than to respond to. This seems counterintuitive — after all, it’s quicker to read than to write. But reading a message is just the start. It may contain a hard-to-answer question, such as “What are your thoughts on this?” Or a link to a Web page. Or an attachment. And it may be copied to a dozen other people, all of whom will soon chime in with their own comments. Every hour spent writing and sending messages consumes more than an hour of the combined attention of the various recipients. And so, without meaning to, we’re all creating a growing problem for one another.

In a recent article, Nicholas Carr, former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, said that information overload is stopping people from concentrating on tasks as they search for what he terms “pellets of social interaction.”  Mr Carr, who wrote a book called The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, says that our basic human instinct to search for new information makes us addicted to our inboxes.

The non-stop information overload also makes it impossible to think deeply in a syndrome that has been named Divided Attention Disorder, or DAD.  In another article, Mr Carr told Esquire magazine: ‘Our gadgets have turned us into hi-tech lab rats, mindlessly pressing levers in the hope of receiving a pellet of social or intellectual nourishment.

Check out this very interesting video of Nicholas Carr discussing the consequences of information overload at 2011 Economist conference.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a hi-tech lab rat.  So I decided to tackle this problem head on.

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