How We Communicate
I recently read Brad Feld’s post, A Problem With Gmail When The Machines Take Over, and while the article is about the problems he faced with his email being unavailable due to an error of robots, what really interested me is the volume of email he receives. You can see in his image below that he receives almost 500 emails a day and that he sends emails to over 1,700 different people per month. That is a lot of people, especially when research shows we can only sustain around 150 social relationships.
In the comments of that post, David Cohen of TechStars, compares his stats and finds that he receives less email than Brad, but sends more emails out. I am not embarrassed to admit that I send and receive significantly less email than both of these guys, who are in esteemed positions and in charge of large groups of people. I am actually impressed that they are able to interact with that many people in a given day, day after day. It must be exhausting to have an inbox like that, that never stops and it makes me understand why in-demand people sometimes do not reply. It also makes me want to pay even more attention to the headline and content of the messages I send (see David’s The Perfect Email post for great tips).
Aside from the fact that they are important people, I am wondering if their email statistics are so high because they use it as their sole method of communication, or if they have that much volume on other channels as well. Not to age them, but I am from a younger generation and wonder if it is possible that I utilize other channels of communication more often than them. This includes FB chat, SnapChat, gTalk, Skype, and text messaging among others. As many of my readers know, I run a mobile marketing company and so it’s a given that I enjoy text messaging. Check out my text messaging statistics from the last year:
I sent and received nearly 35,000 messages, which is above average for a male my age, but is about half of what women, especially younger ones, send and receive in a year. Personally, I like to use text messaging even with business contacts (if we have a cordial relationship) because it is instantaneous and a lot better for quick questions. I am on a lot of other platforms and end up having a good amount of communications outside of my email inbox. If David and Brad have as proportionally high a volume of communications outside of email as me, I really do not know how they do it.
I can only imagine how many hours a day they spend reading, responding, and sorting through their inboxes. There are many tools out there to help (Feld mentions he has 100 apps authorized to his gmail in the article), but at the end of the day, there is no way to avoid the emails if you simply just have that much going on. There is no real way to stop people from contacting you, the best you can do is not respond, but that doesn’t really solve the problem of the proportional increase in communications that comes with increases in personal and businesses connections.
Combined with meeting more and more people, the fact that people know how to easily reach us at any time, makes it hard to avoid the increases in communication. I have this problem myself because I am available on so many platforms, I do not really have the ability to sign off. This is a curse of the the “always on” world we live in. With no real way to limit the flow of people contacting you as you become more popular, communication can quickly get overwhelming.
There has to be a limit to how much communication we can have before it gets too overwhelming. Is there a method out there that allows us to slow down increases in communication, without slowing down our progress and growth? If you have an answer to that question, I’m sure Brad or David would love to hear it, just don’t email it to them…