Never say email again


What below was the situation in 2010! Now I can only say I am in "survival mode"...

I still remember very well the first Great Disappointment I had with email. Years and years ago, soon after finishing the PhD, I write an email to a famous scientist. I wait for a few days, and no reply. I start getting angry day by day, until I decide to write him again. Needless to day, I was really angry. The constant thought I had was, okay, he is a famous and busy person, he will have thousands of important things to do, but why on earth cannot he find five minutes to reply? What are five minutes after all?
In the end, he didn't reply, ever, and my subsequent thought has been, well, he might be an excellent researcher, but he is incredibly rude (euphemism).

Many years have passed, and now I find myself seeing the same thing with very different eyes, and to understand that person (with whom, by the way, I became friend).
Because I am exactly in the same situation as he was (!)

The reason is simple: it is true that five minutes are not that much, and it doesn't take much to reply to a single email.  But now, imagine the situation: day by day, you start receiving more and more emails. And then, you stat passing more and more of your time replying emails.
Imagine that this email growth goes on. At a certain point, you find yourself to devote so much time to emails that they start eating up your time, hour by hour, day by day. Eventually, you have so many emails each day that you cannot deal with all of them, and so you start spending part of your weekend, of your evenings, of your spare time, just replying them.
And at a certain moment, you are over: your spare time has been used, and you cannot reply to everybody. What to do?
The solution, if you cannot hire a secretary to help, is only one: to devote to emails a certain amount of time, and trying to reply to as more persons as possible. Being certain not to be able to reply to everybody.

I described this experience because, as said, I later understood that person who didn't reply, and that now I know much better, wasn't rude or so. Just, he was in the same condition I find myself now. If he had told me before, I would have in all likelihood understood, instead of judging him so badly. It is for this reason that I write these sentences: to let someone who didn't get a reply, or got it quite some time later, understand that the time in a day is a fixed constant, whereas the number of email is not., and that in some cases, and this is one of those, people simply do their best, but it is not enough.

To wrap up, some solid data to better give the idea (calculation on my mailbox updated on 11 Apr 2010, statistics over the last five years):

Average number of emails received (spam excluded): 347 emails per week

Average number of email needing a reply: 179 emails per week

Emails at least read but not answered yet: 678.

[English | Italiano]