Round-up: How much time do you waste deleting email?

I’ve been thinking a lot about email this week. I have had the same email address for many, many years, and over time, I’ve gotten on a lot of lists. I get ads from companies I purchased something from three years ago, member announcements from organizations I am no longer part of, digests of things that seemed interesting at a different stage of my life. And so forth. I delete 99% of these emails unread. I don’t think I’m thinking much about it. But how much time does all that deleting take up? And is there collateral damage in terms of lost focus?

I explore that topic in one of my CBS MoneyWatch posts this week: “The hidden cost of unwanted email.” How many unwanted emails do you think you get per day? How much time do you spend deleting? At 3 seconds a pop, if you get 60 unwanted messages a day, that’s 3 minutes, which comes out to about an hour a month (just looking at work days) or 12 hours a year. But I think the damage goes deeper. I’m going to set a date to get off a bunch of lists once I get back to work after my upcoming week off.

Also dealing with inboxes…. My other two MoneyWatch posts were “When to send email so it will get read” (the answer may surprise you!) and “Save time by never filing an email again.” According to the email guru I interviewed, filing emails is a total waste of time. I agree!

AOL Jobs picked up a few posts, including “Get ahead at work, even if you don’t have time to schmooze.

Yahoo interviews me for a video on the Secret of Your Success called “How to Make time For A Better Life.” I don’t really like my hair in this video but my house and desk look nice!

Kim Palmer of US News quoted me in a piece called “Parents: Stop being so awkward with money.

Readology reviews All the Money in the World, calling it “conversational and authoritative, well-researched and yet practical and personal.”

In other news:

Wandering Scientist gets herself up to 133 comments with a post on Women, Men, Chores and Relationships. The question is why would professional women tolerate an unequal distribution of household chores? There are likely many reasons, but I think part of it is preference. Some people want cleaner houses than others, and more elaborate meals than others. Perhaps these preferences are due to social conditioning, but I don’t think it’s fair to hold all parties to the standard of the cleanest person. Housework expands to fill the available time. You can save a lot of time by lowering your standards.

House of Peanut adds to the frugal hack list with her tips on renting a house for a vacation.

Khan Academy has recently added Art History lectures. What a nice thing to watch instead of funny cat videos!


24 thoughts on “Round-up: How much time do you waste deleting email?

  1. The question on chores and relationships seems obvious to me- at least for conservative religious women, if you won’t take on the bulk of domestic chores, no one will marry you. I read about this in orthodox Jewish culture and it’s true in conservative Christian culture as well.

    Educated, monogamous, responsible men interested in being good fathers are in demand. If they don’t want to share household chores equally, they can marry someone who won’t require it.

    Disagree? Look at the probability of being single-for-life (exclude divorced people) for men vs. women in the top 5% of the income distribution.

    1. @Twin Mom- one of the most interesting points of that Time magazine “The Richer Sex” article we discussed a few weeks ago is that this is changing. Being a high-earning woman is now commanding a marriage premium on the market. That is, you’re more likely to get married if you are professionally accomplished than if you are not. There are always going to be certain alpha males who want one thing. But what I think is interesting is the rise of intelligent, reasonably ambitious men who were raised by mothers who were intelligent and ambitious and see it as utterly normal that they would marry someone like that. Indeed, it might be a bit of a plus if you’re not solely responsible for supporting your family financially. It’s all in flux right now, but the two income families I know are a complete mix on this. In some mom does most (probably half of these for preference, half for social reasons). In some they split pretty equally, and in some neither does it because most of it is outsourced.

      1. You’re right for the culture as a whole but not for conservative religious cultures (LDS, conservative Christian, orthodox Jewish). As a proxy for this, consider the subset of women who will not have sex before marriage and the men who will consider marrying them. (No sex before marriage is a reasonable proxy for conservative religious belief.) It is this subset that I was thinking of- where equal roles are not even professed

    2. Fascinating! This expectation for women is still alive and well in Indian culture, too, though it seems like men are more inclined to at least “help out”, and of course the more enlightened ones are willing to share the burden more equally.

  2. Thanks for the link! It is a record number of comments for my blog, and it is still going. A lot of those comments are me replying… it would be interesting to count the number of distinct commenters I got, though. I think that is a record for me, too.

    @Twin Mom- I don’t think there are many super conservative religious women in the set of women who I was wondering about- professional women in dual career couples reading and commenting on primarily feminist blogs! Even fairly liberal people seem to run into trouble on the chores front.

    On the email thing- I haven’t sorted work emails in years. I sometimes sort some of my home emails, but I take the approach of pulling out a particular topic (like confirmation emails for a vacation) and letting the majority stay unsorted. Search is better than sort these days! I don’t know many sorters at all among the younger generation, who are used to search being so good. I think it is just those of us who remember when search sucked that find it hard to give up sorting.

    1. Yes, I read through all the comments later and your demographic is very different from my demographic. As a woman who wants to straddle both words but prioritizes religion, though, the grass certainly looks greener on your side of the fence, in terms of egalitarian treatment.

      1. Indeed! I do have some more religious family members, and the split there tends to be less equal. But not universally so.

        Of my commenters, the one closest to your situation would be One Tired Ema. She’s an Orthodox Jew. But I think that is very different religious community than, say, evangelicals. I won’t hazard anymore on the topic, though, because I know very little about either of those communities!

      2. @Twin Mom- it’s interesting on the conservative Christian front, since Jesus’s one statement on the matter is to praise Mary (who sat and listened) over Martha, who complained about all the cooking and cleaning that needed to be done. How’s that for a fridge magnet? Jesus says to let the housework go…

    2. @Cloud- my email guru at Baydin who I interviewed for all those posts told me that people really do have a 2001 mindset on email search. It used to suck, and people assume it still sucks. But given how many people have, say, Gmail, and given that Google is pretty good, doesn’t it make sense that email search would be pretty good too?
      I dream of having 130-plus comments on a post 🙂

  3. Laura I have been keeping the phrase “kitchen chicken” (love that!) firmly in mind since coming across it in 168 Hours.

    My husband is wonderful in every way but his bathroom is really gross. I keep my mouth shut and ignore it and eventually he cleans it (I guess it gets too gross even for him?!). The neat thing is, when I say nothing, he’s apologetic and sweet about it. He’ll even stop me from going in there if it’s too bad. 🙂

    I have a question that I would love to see addressed in a future blog post: what resources (books, websites etc) would you recommend for a writing (blogging) mom who wants to get some of her work in print publications? I have been published offline in the past but it was quite by accident. A friend across the country would call and tell me they saw my article in a local parenting magazine or whatever… but I’m intimidated by the process of actually pitching articles.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer 🙂

    1. @Carrie- sure, I could potentially do a post on that topic at some point. I might time it to the ASJA conference (American Society of Journalists and Authors) I’m going to at the end of the month. But if you have any specific questions, feel free to email me.

      1. wow, thanks Laura! I’m not really trying to start a freelance writing career as in getting paid to write unique articles for publications… my goal is so get more exposure for my blogs by reusing content I’m already writing.

        I currently submit articles to directories like EzineArticles and that’s where some publications have picked them up, but I would like to be more aggressive with it. Someone suggested I buy the 2012 Writer’s Market…?

        I also subscribe to HARO and pitch my ideas if they’re applicable to my niche and I have something useful to say. I’ve gotten some publicity that way. (I was on MSNBC once and in KIWI magazine a couple of times.)

        Was that a question? LOL

        p.s. Thanks for mentioning Khan Academy. As a homeschooler I’m always looking for high quality educational content like that online for my older kids.

      2. I’m interested in that post too. I want to expand my technical writing business (recently wrote a white paper for utility incident management software) but don’t know how to make the right connections.

  4. Thanks for the shout out too 🙂

    I have given up on sorting my personal GMail account, though I ruthlessly unsubscribe from mailing lists (esp the store ones I never signed up for in the first place – arghhh!)

    But I have an issue with clutter so it hurts me to see so many emails in my Inbox. At work I do try to keep a clean inbox so that I can better track my work and not lose important things. But it is time-consuming.

  5. Umm.. it’s not preference… it’s a fact of life for most modern American women that want to work and self-actualize outside the home that they are still doing more in the realm of “inside the home” this is a major “problem” with the women’s movement or the women equal to men argument.. in that we have never really done anything to deal with this issue as a society.. if we want to educate women and live in a free society where men and women are equal and equally contribute as adults, how do we t hen expect women to do all childcare, cooking, shopping cleaning… which if you look at our politics, our society, or tax policy we do… I strongly disagree with the idea that the reason women clean up more than men is that they are desperate to stay married or pro create.. you can have kids without being married and so that argument seems a bit out of date and I don’t think most conservative or religousu women in america feel they have to stay married to have a man.. in this sense divorce and woman’s access to true equality have come a long way (aka we can have a credit card in our own name) this is also why we have child support!
    but women are oppressed in that the system doesn’t support them working … b/c i hasn’t dealt really with the family or done anything as it did during ww II to make work and family possible … when our work both that of women and men is necessary for war ..we have childcare and other things we need.. but when it is not we do not

  6. I do think this issue can be worked on and read through Cloud’s posts… I also think it has a lot to do with how you are raised, especially for men… I think a boy who is raised in a home where the father is an equal partner and the mother is a working professional with an equal domestic partner have a much much better chance of being this way in their own relationships… and for us as mothers of sons this is very important and would be important to look at and something I would like to read more on

    1. also here is another really interesting question that my friends and I talk about and I think Twin Mom made a good point about and I completely disagree with Cloud on…
      What is it that we as women negotiate with in the domestic sphere.. that is how many women would really threaten divorce or withhold sex or do any of that drastic stuff over the issue of hey you do less childcare than me and less housework… I do not care about housework but I do have a big problem with the fact that my husband and I don’t more equally share childcare … but I wouldn’t divorce him over this issue b/c I love him, he loves our kids and is faithful to me and a hard worker… that said.. what am I left to negotiate with… this is an interesting question I think…

      1. My point was that if the chores issue (or any other) is important enough to you that you’d consider divorcing over it, chances are your husband (who also loves you, and wants you to be happy, right?) would work with you to find a solution.

        But yes, a lot of women apparently think I am crazy for saying I’d divorce over this issue. I would, because (1) if I’m doing all the chores, I don’t get the time for the other interests that keep me sane, and (2) if he wouldn’t compromise with me on this issue, I would consider it a lack of respect for me and my interests.

        But actually, the more accurate statement is I would never have married my husband in the first place if he wasn’t pulling his weight on the chores. We lived together for several years before marrying. I know this is not an option for a lot of women, though, who disapprove of pre-marital cohabitation for religious or other reasons.

        1. Interesting viewpoint. My family is experiencing a divorce in the family of the only cousins my kids know. The mom (to whom I am not related) is having affair(s), partying, spending money she doesn’t have, smoking cigarettes and who knows what else, etc. in a pretty dramatic change from her behavior over the last decade.

          Joint custody is the default in many states. I would do ALL the housework/chores/childcare (or hire it done) before I would divorce my spouse and let my kids spend half their time in such a household.

          Post-kids, all bets are off. 🙂

          1. I completely agree with this. My kids are my life and I would never volunteer to have them raised without a father as I was… My mother had no choice in this area and I think this is why we need to educate and help men to be better fathers and to ask for the things we need as a society like a tax policy that supports the woman’s income, affordable great child care … redbook did some articles on this recently about who seems glamours and great to have your kids go with dad every other weekend or for times b/c this gives you a break but who among us really would want this.. women can be a little bit like I’m so great and you are struggling and we could be more unified as women around these issues… the scripture is pretty clear bout who important women are and jesus had a lot of women around him and the res was revealed first to women … who got to the empty tomb… we are important ot our families to our economy and to our religions and we are still not treated as such.. if we are and a man is great it may b/c he was raised that way not b/c some woman is better than some other woman in training her husband or married smarter. if we were honest we’d all admit we work on this issue and it is fundamental to our advancement post betty fr feminism.. we need a feminism that works for moms

        2. It is hart to know this before you have kids…. and I think this view of marriage is a little bit, I’m so great and everone else is a little misguided… I see your point and think women need to advocate for themselves in their marriages and in the public sphere about this… I am not afraid as a professional woman if my husband wants to leave me… so I’m not afraid to push the issue..but I wouldn’t leave him over it and make my kids see him every other weekend…

          1. Cara, I’m only talking about ME. If you are happy with your relationship, that’s great, even if your partner doesn’t do a lick of housework.
            How I choose to live my life isn’t a judgment on anyone else. It is just me picking what works best for me.
            The entire point of my original post was that I wanted to understand other people’s points of view. Saying I don’t understand is also not a judgment. Or if it is, then you are clearly judging me. But I am choosing not to read your comments as judgment on what I would do. We’re different people with different priorities, and different opinions about what would be the bad for our kids, that’s all.
            We’ll never get to the point of understanding and appreciating people’s different approaches to life if every statement about why we do something is seen as a judgment of people who do things differently.

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