Men have become the tools of their tools.
—Henry David Thoreau
How many e-mail messages did you receive today? How many of these were either important, urgent, or both – to you? And how many e-mail messages did you receive three years ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago?
Unless you just returned from an extended Martian holiday, the answer is probably troubling. Depending on the job, a knowledge worker might be the recipient of several hundred e-mail messages, only a dozen of which, at the most, are both important and urgent for him. According to my research, the overall average number of e-mails received per day is 93 as of 2010. These figures are in addition to the other messaging tools he uses, ranging from desk and mobile phone, to social networks, to instant messaging (IM) and text messaging. According to Pingdom, an Internet monitoring service, 107 trillion e-mail messages were sent in 2010. This amounts to 294 billion e-mails per day.
A look at the actual numbers from large corporations in 2009 is revealing. An Intel employee receives 350 e-mail messages per week on average. Intel executives receive an average of 300 e-mail messages per day. Intel employees spend, on average, 20 hours per week managing e-mail.
At Morgan Stanley, the average employee receives 625 e-mail messages per week. However, the typical Morgan Stanley executive gets over 500 per day.
Three years ago, the same individual who today receives several hundred was likely to receive at most ...