Ah, email. Can’t live with it; can’t live without it. If, like me, you work with clients and people outside of your company, email is probably your lifeline.
At the same time, many of us are inundated with email. The Inbox is so overwhelming that people turn to chat to rise above the noise. Thus the debate as to whether email is dead.
Email Productivity Curve
In the Study Hacks Blog, computer scientist Cal Newport points to a contrast in email usage. Pew Research found that 61% percentage of online workers report that email is their most powerful tool. In other corners there is a hue and cry to turn email off.
Newport illustrates the “Email Productivity Curve.”
At the far left, prior to email being used, productivity is healthily above zero. With email use, productivity increases but eventually reaches a maximum point, the first blue “X.” Beyond that point more email usage hampers productivity. After the breakeven point, the second blue “X,” email usage leaves us less productive than we would be without email. We have zero time to do anything other than read and reply to email. Many of us have come to feel that we are somewhere beyond that first blue “X.”
It’s not just the volume of email that is unproductive. It’s the plodding practices and interfaces.
Welcome the Lighter, More Contextual Email
Mathilde Collin, CEO and co-founder of Front App, shares four predictions on the future of email:
- Email will get lighter, less formalized.
Messages will get shorter, more akin to messaging/chat. Mobile email will diverge from desktop email and will be more efficient, requiring fewer touches to get the same task accomplished.
- Email will be more connected.
Integration with other applications will provide more context to streamline workflows.
- Email will be smarter.
Artificial intelligence will provide auto-labeling, specific notifications and suggestions for actions.
- Email will become multi-player.
Email will be shared and collaborative.
Email has Long Legs
Email has to work smarter to be more productive today, and it is. The past year has shown promising innovation in email interfaces, especially in mobile email applications. Ease of use and integrations with other applications are improving by the month. I can assure you that there are more email efficiencies in store. There are 2.5 billion email users worldwide. In my view, as long as email can continue to increase ease-of-use on smartphones, it will stay relevant.