Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If you constantly answer emails and text messages in your head – but not in real life - read this

In the last week, at least 10 different people expressed frustration about how they have gotten into a weird habit of answering emails or text messages in their head, but do not provide an actual response to a message in real life. They each described the impact this was creating in both their work and personal lives and were literally scratching their heads, trying to make sense of this phenomenon.

Since it kept coming up over and over again, I started thinking about why is this happening to many of us? Can one person truly get in front of this data train?

I decided to do some digging to gain a broader understanding of the problem. I took a step back to analyze how much information you are actually receiving in a day?a week? a year?

I conducted a quick scan that yielded some interesting insights. Consider this:

  • An average email is about 75 kilobytes (KB) of size. 75 KB would be around 7000 words in plain text or about 37 and a half pages of typewriting. 
  • The average email user receives 147 messages per day.  This means that if the average email is 75 kilobytes, this translates to 1,029,000 words in plain text or approximately 5,513 pages of typewritten information a day – just from one mailbox.  
  • If you are like most people, you have probably have at least 2 email addresses – a work email and a secondary (personal) email address.  According to research firm Return Path, people read 83% of the emails in the primary mailbox versus only reading 16% of the email messages in their personal mailbox.    
  • This means that you are probably reading or scanning through a combined 5,458 pages of typewritten information a day via emails.    
  •  Layer on top of that people send/receive about 60 text messages per day.  At 140 bytes on average per text message, this is an additional 8,400 bytes (or 7.8 KB) of data.

This means on a weekly basis you are trying to filter through 270+ typewritten pages of new information being pushed to you. 

Annually it means you are receiving approximately 12,960 of typewritten pages of information requiring some sort of additional level of action for you to take.  This is all before the social media feeds, other email addresses/data streams, and mobile app notifications.

Visually, the amount of emails, text messages, social media notifications, etc.... you receive annually would probably looks something like this if it was filed away manually in real life:

Let that sink in for a moment.

And then you wonder why your brain keeps resorting to “phantom” email/text responses - answering emails or text messages in your head, but not actually taking physical action in real life. 

Cut yourself some slack…!

With all of this data being constantly pushed to you, it is actually natural for your brain to react to this constant stream of data through automatic filtering and indexing of information called selective filtering.

Running from meeting to meeting, commitment to commitment, we attempt to stay on top of a massive data train that is coming our way moving at lightning speed and landing in our mobile devices with content being generated by people and machines all the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What we fail to realize is that this 24/7/365 data train will win - every time. 

You might have to give up the idea of trying to get in front of it and determine a smarter, less evasive approach to how you will consume critical information and at what times that are most effective to help you better manage and communicate.

What we need to realize is that this data train will win - every time.

What are ways you can completely disconnect and only read or scan emails/text messages when you have the time to pay full attention?  Share your comments below.