Email has an excitement around it because of its immediacy. It comes in fast and can be responded to quickly. Pop-up notifications, bells, and vibrating cell phones beckon one to view their incoming messages like a Pavlovian Dog, making it feel like every email must be answered as soon as it arrives. But if you stop to think about it, how much of your email do you really need to see as soon as it shows up?
Dan Ariely, a researcher in behavioral economics and author of books including The Upside of Irrationality and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, wanted to find out how much email is really so important that it needs immediate attention. The findings reported on his blog came to a strong conclusion. Participants in his study indicated that out of all the email that arrived in their inbox, only 11% of it warranted immediate attention. Basically, just 1 in 10 messages that arrived in participant’s inboxes were worthy of quick action. The rest could wait for hours or days and 24% could be trashed immediately.
Take this finding as an excuse to relax around email. If you haven’t done so already, turn off all notifications of new messages that only serve to break your concentration. The takeaway here is not to worry if you haven’t checked email in a while. The truth is most email can wait.