Silence the noise
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This summer, Steven Cohen of SAC Capital plead not guilty to knowledge of insider trading. His excuse: he gets thousands of emails a day and just didn’t see the email that could have sent him to jail. I know email is broken, but I didn’t realize it was a get out of jail free card.

This is what is broken with email today: critical pieces of information that could save or enhance your job, company, or family are mixed in with coupons for sky diving lessons.  And it isn’t just marketing messages. Chances are, your own company sends you noisy email (collaboration system notifications come to mind)--email that could cause you to miss something really important.

How big of a problem is noisy email?  Pretty darn big, as it turns out.

In 2010 Basex estimated information overload was costing the US economy $997 billion dollars a year, which is to say: 7.5% of our GDP. You could pay Congress’s salaries for 10,742 years with that! [1]

While email isn’t the only source of information overload, it is a significant component of it.  Intel estimates email overload costs large companies $1 billion dollars a year in lost productivity. Multiply that times the Fortune 500 and you’ve got half your trillion right there.  

Here at Skimbox, we call all this costly noise “skimmable email.” [2] You don’t really need to read skimmable email, and you definitely don’t have to respond to it. It’s not spam, or cold pitches, or newsletters you never subscribed to, but it’s not an urgent request from your boss, either. A great example for me are these update notifications I get several times a day from our project management system.  Completely useless most days, since I’m in the office and know what is going on, but when I’m traveling they are a good way to keep in touch with the team, so I don’t want to unsubscribe from them altogether.

It’s tempting, and common, to frame skimmable email as one of life’s unavoidable annoyances, like traffic or ads for shows featuring some combination of Kardashians. But it’s actually a bit graver than that: email is killing our productivity, and, in some cases, it’s killing us. The no texting while driving rule applies to email, too. And off the road, when people are responding and checking email at home it puts a strain on their family time and prevents them from having a chance to unplug and re-energize for the following day.

Besides the critical fact that you might end up in an accident if you check your email while driving, all of the problems associated with email overload are exacerbated when using a mobile device. The smaller screen means it is even easier to miss important emails. Constantly being interrupted kills your productivity at work, but it’s even worse outside of work, because your mind isn’t on work to begin with.  

In order to make people more productive, we need to change how we think about email.  Business workers need a solution analogous to SPAM filters to reduce the noise and interruptions throughout the day.  The solution must work on all clients, not just on the desktop, but on the phone and the web.  It needs to be personalized, and it needs to learn, because the definition of what’s important is different, and fluid for each of us.

So, what is this solution? Its crux is simple, really: move the skimmable email out of your inbox.

Ok, so the moving itself: not that simple, but that’s why we built Skimbox--to do the moving for you, as you would do if you had the time and inclination.

By our rough estimation, this will save you, on average, a half hour a day. It also means your risk of missing important emails plummets. [3]

Companies are realizing that email is reducing their productivity and they are putting systems in to reduce email, such as instant messaging and team management software, but email is still growing 15% a year (partially generated by these email replacement systems themselves). Rather than ignoring the email problem, we think now is the time to focus on fixing it from the bottom up. The Skimbox app is the first step towards that.

Let Skimbox silence the email noise, so you can focus on what’s important.

1. Or do something more useful with it, like buy 1.33 Trillion Hershey's bars.

2. You can see where the name comes from.

3. Unless all the emails you get are important, in which case: Godspeed!