Inbox zero or 50,000+ unread – what your emails say about you

Seamless pattern of e-mail notification icon

Drowning in a flood of emails? (Picture: Getty)

Apparently, one in a hundred Brits have more than 50,000 unread work emails. 

Fifty thousand.

If just the thought of that is sending cold shivers down your spine, you’re not alone. 

Then again, neither are they. Alongside the one in a hundred with a truly terrifying number of unopened emails, 5% of UK office workers have more than 5,000, and 13% have more than 1,000.

But is the ability to continue living life under the shadow of a monstrous mail backlog evidence of some psychopathic tendency or risk-seeking behaviour? Or is it simply that there are too many emails out there.

Dr Talar Moukhtarian, an assistant professor in mental health at the University of Warwick, warns people not to judge those with out-of-control emails too harshly, or assume those at ‘Inbox Zero’ are better people.

An overflowing inbox doesn’t necessarily mean a tolerance for chaos (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

‘It’s tempting to think that having a cluttered inbox means we’re chaos-loving rebels, while an empty one screams “organisational wizard”, but it’s not that straightforward,’ she says. 

‘While how we handle our emails can give a sneak peek into our personality – from our stress tolerance to our love for spontaneity, it’s essential to recognise that it’s not a definitive indicator of personality traits.’

How we manage our inbox, Dr Moukhtarian says, can offer insights into our organisation, stress tolerance, attention to detail, and communication style.

‘For instance, someone with thousands of unread emails may have a higher tolerance for chaos and spontaneity, while those with no unread emails may prioritise organisation and prompt task completion,’ she says.

Dr Talar Moukhtarian (Picture: University of Warwick)

However, that does not mean that everyone with a bulging inbox can cope with chaos, nor does it mean those who are organised cannot lose control of the situation. You may receive hundreds of emails a day, and simply not have time to address both those and the actual day job.

Last year, Financial Times journalist Pilita Clark revealed she had more than 400,000 unread emails, while a colleague had 500,000.

‘We have reached the point where the benefits of communication are being outweighed by a dispiriting loss of production,’ she wrote.

The study that revealed those one in a hundred Brits with 100,000 unread emails, commissioned by language-learning platform Babbel to mark Gmail’s 20th anniversary, also found that 65% of those who responded said the volume of emails they receive at work increased their stress levels. Of the participants, 43% hope that, in five years’ time, they will be sent fewer emails. We can dream.

‘A build-up of emails can affect our mental health,’ says Dr Moukhtarian. ‘A backlog of unread emails can feel like a never-ending avalanche of overwhelm, loss of control, increased anxiety, decreased focus, and negative self-perception.

Email overload can have negative mental health effects (Picture: Getty/Tetra images RF)

‘The sheer volume of emails can make it difficult to know where to start or prioritise, worrying about missing important messages or deadlines, leading to feelings of anxiety and stress. The constant reminder …read more

Source:: Metro


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