Email Flood Keeps Pouring It On

I’ve tried, unsuccessfully for the most part, to reduce the stranglehold of email on my business life. I’ve followed some of the guidelines — only check at certain times of the day, create folders for next steps, etc. — but that doesn’t seem to stop the unending flow.

A recent New York Times technology column noted that a research firm study calculated that people send 182 billion emails each day around the world. The annual total: More than 67 trillion messages. (In 2012, the numbers were 144 billion a day and 52 trillion total). Active email accounts increased from 3.3 billion to 3.9 billion, with 6% growth expected in each of the next four years.

Here are a few other observations in the Times column:

“It’s behavioral economics 101,” said Clive Thompson, author of a new book, “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better” and an occasional contributor to The New York Times Magazine. “You make it easy for people to do something, they will do more of it.”

Studies have shown that all this email leads to an unproductive and anxiety-ridden workplace, said Gloria Mark, an informatics professor at the University of California, Irvine, who has been studying the effects of email in the workplace since 2004. Ms. Mark’s research has found that people who stopped using email at work felt less stress and were more focused and productive.

Mr. Thompson said that in the workplace, email had become a major barrier of efficiency. “People feel the need to include 10 other people on an email just to let them know they are being productive at work,” he said. “But as a result, it ends up making those other 10 people unproductive because they have to manage that email.”

Branko Cerny, founder of SquareOne, which bills itself as a stress-free email client, said that technology could help solve the problems of email on the receiving end, which SquareOne does by presorting and flagging important messages, but that only human awareness could stop senders from inundating us.

In the past, with physical letters, people put thought into what they were going to write before they sent it, Mr. Cerny said. With digital, it’s send first, think later.

The author closes with the following: “For those who can’t seem to handle the onslaught of email, there is always the extreme option. When messages pile up, select all, hit delete and declare email bankruptcy (his lead shared that was his strategy in going from 46,315 unread emails in his inbox on Dec. 31, 2013 to none on his first day back to work in the new year).”