We already know that 89 billion business e-mails are sent in a given day (that figure is probably higher for 2014), no one even remotely contextualizes their e-mail (so that everyone assumes everything has to be responded to immediately), e-mail is a giant friggin’ distraction on par with almost nothing else, and everyone’s always chasing Inbox Zero — but usually from the wrong angle. In short, almost everything we can say about e-mail is awful. It distracts us, it enslaves us, it adds a million people to discussions that don’t need to be part of it, it makes things more muddled, etc, etc. It’s a scourge of the modern workforce, honestly. If you took away e-mail for five days, no one would know what to do at first — it would be sheer panic — but I bet, by Day 5, the company would actually be working better than it was a few weeks before Day 1. Of course, no one would ever take away e-mail for five days. Cats and dogs, living together.
I found a new contextual study on e-mail over at Fast Company, and I thought one part was interesting. Here’s the article. It’s based on an interview with the CEO of Yesware, which is an e-mail tracking company; their motto is “Sell Smarter,” which already makes me want to put my fist through my eye. (This is how you “sell smarter,” FYI.) Here’s the interesting stat:
- Most people (urban legend) say the best time to send an e-mail is early morning. (In other jobs I’ve had, I’ve heard “Tuesday 10am.”)
- In reality, the two best times to send an e-mail are between 6am and 7am, or after 8pm.
- The majority of e-mails are sent between 9am and 3pm (logical), but that period also has the lowest open and response rate (also logical).
Stop and think for a second about what this means.
- People, by and large, believe e-mail is a good, core form of communication.
- People want their e-mails to be read, noticed, responded to, etc.
- Over time, people have realized that the actual workday is a bad time to do this, because of competing priorities.
- So now people try to send e-mails at 6am or 8:30pm in order to get on a radar screen.
Here’s the problem: you know what 6am and 8:30pm are?
That’s time with your family.
That’s getting kids ready for school, or a family dinner, or some activity, or whatever else it may be — it could even be time with your adult friends. Regardless, it’s not work time.
I know the conventional refrain here will be “Well, all time is work time in the modern age!” That’s the same bullshit attitude that leads Americans to forego vacation time, even though everyone understands travel and detox from work can increase energy, patience, tolerance, and foster new ideas. Work work work work work work isn’t actually an effective play for your life. So sending e-mails at 6am or 9pm just to have a slightly better chance of making the radar screen? Fuck that. Don’t do it. Let people have their own lives outside of work. We give 1/3 of ourselves to the office. It doesn’t need to creep up.
(By the way, almost every e-mail I’ve ever sent at 9pm in my life has been answered in probably less than 20 minutes. How fucking terrifying is that, right?)