Still filing your emails? Science says it’s a waste of time
There is a lot of bad news out there. You may have noticed. Some have taken to protecting themselves from updates on Brexit wars, Trump traumas, Covid-19 nightmares and the rest by rationing how much news they consume.
Instead, people searching for safe spaces invest in long reads or, for keen readers of this column, in research into broader topics. But by far the worst news last week in fact came from a piece of research into a seemingly innocuous topic: emails.
The traumatic revelation is that all my vain attempts to keep my inbox under control by filing emails in folders are actively making me less productive. It apparently takes up 10% of the time spent on emails (ie, 10% of our lives) to do this filing. Worse, apparently our filing efforts do nothing to improve the speed at which we can re-find emails when needed. Shockingly, those inbox slobs who just leave everything in situ and search for what they need actually find what they are after quicker than those of us craving order.
Now some of you may be seeing a silver lining here. Maybe an end to the pointless email filing will bring an end to the grim reality that the past decade has seen some of the worst productivity growth since the Industrial Revolution. But before you get carried away, I’ve got some news for you: we email filers are very stubborn. Just like the anti-vaxxers out there, I shall be studiously ignoring the science as well as the news.
• Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org
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