Magazine article Information Management

Book Review: Managing E-Mail Overload

Magazine article Information Management

Book Review: Managing E-Mail Overload

Article excerpt

Book Review: Managing E-mail Overload

When a book about e-mail says it is a "simple, accessible reference for workers and organizations that want to get the most out of this ubiquitous and sometimes overwhelming method of communication," it deserves a look.

If the research done by author Christina Cavanagh is accurate, e-mail overload is an issue for management attention. For example, she says employees spend approximately an hour each day on the 36 percent of e-mail messages that are either irrelevant or relevant but do not require a response. Cavanagh quantifies the cost of e-mail overload per employee (assuming an annual salary of $50,000) to approximately $7,750 a year for the employee who receives an average of 48 messages per day. Clearly, with this level of negative impact on the organization, it is a problem for management to address.

At first glance, it seems that Cavanagh's book would help on both a personal and an organizational level. However, that is not the case. The book does have strengths, but they are more on the level of evaluating personal use of e-mail.

The book's greatest strength is a discussion of the most appropriate ways to use e-mail as a communication tool. Cavanagh emphasizes the importance of using a variety of communication methods such as the telephone, formal memos, and face-to-face meetings (formal and informal) in addition to e-mail. She puts e-mail use into the context of overall corporate communications and encourages readers to use multiple methods to be most efficient. If interaction is needed for greatest understanding, then the telephone or a query in person is most appropriate. E-mail is more effective for a distinct audience, a fact-based request, or formal communication for a specific purpose. The author also reviews some of the basic utilities built into most e-mail software for managing the inbox. Using junk e-mail folders, organizing incoming messages into folders and colors to easily identify priority messages, and using the out-of-office assistant are some of the tools discussed.

However, even from a corporate communications perspective, the book overlooks some significant issues and uses. It assumes that the individuals using e-mail are working in the same geographic location. For example, there is no discussion of how to use e-mail when a project team is located in different time zones. There is little reference to using e-mail to communicate with international team members or customers. For most records management professionals, these more sophisticated uses of e-mail are increasingly important. …

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