The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

What’s the biggest time sink Email or other social media?

What the data say - phone and email are tops

What the data say - phone and email are tops

No question about the answer. Take a look, a close look, at these findings from an commissioned survey run by uStamp (n=500). Despite the co-mingling of the results at’s own site’s cover page for the report, the survey shows there is a giant difference in the amount to time and effort wasted on email than on all other social practices on-line. also commits the sin of mislabeling online behaviors as addictive: “The increasingly common addiction to web-based activity – which psychologists call ‘online compulsive disorder’ – is pervasive in the workplace.”

Still the survey provides interesting data that tell a tale of differences in distractions and their management. Let’s sample a few from’s press release to Yahoo! Finance and elsewhere:

Users reported getting sidetracked in email processing (23%), switching windows to complete tasks (10%), personal online activities such as Facebook (9%), instant messaging (6%), text messaging (5%) and Web search (3%).

Two out of three users will interrupt a group meeting to communicate with someone else digitally, either by answering email (48%), answering a mobile phone (35%), chatting via IM (28%), updating their status on a social network (12%) or tweeting (9%).

The user’s email inbox is the #1 location searched, with 76% of respondents reporting email as the first place they look. Other locations include the desktop (69%), file server (52%), shared workspace (34%), portable storage device (18%) and/or cloud storage (9%).

The average user emails two or more documents per day to an average of five people for review, increasing email-based document volume by up to 50 documents per week. The fact that these attachments are stored on multiple local computers complicates the challenge of finding the latest document versions as well as merging feedback from multiple reviewers.

Individual users are more aggressive than even their employers in taking control of their own time and managing distractions:

68% of respondents reported that their employers have implemented policies or technologies to minimize distractions, while 73% of end users have adopted self-imposed techniques to help maintain focus.

It’s not too hard to see where the problems are. Email and worse the misuse of email for document sharing are by far the biggest waste of time and effort.

I am aware that does have a commercial interest in these results. They say of their company: “The product family brings enterprise collaboration to every business user by transforming the email client into a collaboration and social workspace, called ‘social email’.”

Fast Company features a good summary of the results — but keep in mind that the author, David Lavenda, is an executive with David clearly discloses his relationship to in the course of the article. +1


  1. Paul, I suspect this also shows some opportunity for understanding the problem when framed in the context of “personal search”.

    If you have your digital extended self located all over the internet, and you want to remember something that you knew once, you search Google. If your digital alter ego is in your inbox, you search your inbox.

    A big challenge is group work within companies and organizations where everyone carefully collects their own set of digital stuff and shares only as they need to, thus there is no in-the-company archive to search, and no external Google to provide memory continuity, and you are stuck either searching your hard drive or your inbox.

  2. Paul

    6/13/2011 at 3:15 pm

    I agree. For so many, email is the default knowledge base. @bob_calder writes: “At work one has an email network imposed/unchosen (?) “REPLY ALL” ” Yikes!

  3. The question this raises for me, is what does this graph look like for someone who has given up email? Something else either becomes the time sink or there is a provable increase in productivity.

  4. Paul

    6/25/2011 at 9:03 pm

    So far I have fewer phone interruptions, no email, and more face-to-face than the chart shows. I actually do have more time. Some of that time is spent posting here and replying tho ;->

Leave a Reply

© 2018 The Real Paul Jones

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑