Email. A burden. A time-suck. An endless stream of incoming messages, some batted back, some ignored, some discarded, most forgotten. But still a necessary and important tool for getting work done today, two decades after its introduction into our working lives.
And despite dramatic and continuing popularity and value provided by alternate forms of electronic communication, (SMS, social networks, enterprise collaboration technologies), email, for most information workers, remains the dominant digital collaboration and discussion medium. We hate it but we can't live without it. Kind of like Reality TV or Facebook.
But for a tool that is so dominant in many of our professional endeavors, we often have little insight into how we use the tool, and how our usage might be effecting our success, productivity, and career prospects. We know we use email a lot, perhaps even all day long, and we can see how many unread messages we have in our Inbox, but after that, the level of understanding about a communication and work platform is typically extremely limited.
That's why a new service from ToutApp is so interesting, an 'Email Year in Review' report that provides, in a neat little infographic, a rich look into an entire year's worth of email traffic, messages, response rates and more. My full report of Gmail usage from 2011 is here, (a small sample of the full infographic is below).
Other sections of the report dig into most frequent correspondents, most commonly emailed 'circles' or groups of recipients, and some interesting chronilogical data around email usage. Did you find that last Spring's project missed its deadline by a few weeks? Could have had at least something to do with a spike in email traffic right around the critical Go-live? Or do you find yourself mainly pushing email all day long, forcing you to do 'real work' late at night or on weekends? If you are like me, you will probably be surprised by at least some of the data from a year's worth of email.
Currently the Email Year in Review is only available for Gmail accounts, so its usefulness for most corporate employees will be limited, but for frequent Gmail users the report is illuminating, and for all of us that are interested in improving performance and collaboration both personally and inside our organizations, the approach to analyzing the data is instructive.
Email is one of those tools and processes that is so familiar, so entrenched, so deeply immersed in our working lives that it can be really hard to look at its use dispassionately, with some perspective, and with an analytical eye. But understanding more about how email might be impacting your success is something many of us should spend some time considering.
If you are a heavy Gmail user, I'd encourage you to request your own custom email analysis report from ToutApp here. You might be surprised at the results.