E-Hoarding Is Unhealthy
Psychologists are right: Workers must organize and delete their e-mails—or risk cluttering their mental space. Pro or con?
Pro: Don’t Litter in Your Electronic Yard
You say, “So what?” to hoarding gigabytes of mostly useless information. I say, “Get real.”
Information has never been easier to acquire. E-mails fly across the world in milliseconds. The average worker fields more than 100 every day, and you say e-hoarding is healthy? Is clutter healthy?
E-clutter, which results from e-hoarding, is costly, both mentally and monetarily. We have the same capacity to digest information as our forefathers, but the amount of information zinging its way into our lives is increasing exponentially.
According to the research firm Basex, information overload costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $900 billion per year in lowered employee productivity and reduced innovation. It adds time to normal tasks and creates stress.
A recent survey by the technology market research firm Radicati Group reported that “the typical corporate e-mail user sends and receives about 105 e-mail messages per day.” That is a lot of e-mail to process, categorize, or store. Sorting through old messages and rummaging through our in-boxes like we’re after the Holy Grail strips hours from each day.
Additionally, the anxiety that goes with having to scavenge through thousands of pieces of information, hoping that you’ve responded to all your e-mails, can be overwhelming.
Here’s what it all comes down to: The more you save, the more you have to sift through. The less everything is organized, the more time you’ll waste and the more stressed you’ll become.
Organize your e-clutter, trash stuff you don’t need, and free yourself to work on what truly matters.
Con: Why Delete That Which Takes Up No Space?
In an age of ever-increasing computing power and ever-decreasing storage costs, is there really any harm in ignoring the delete button? The bottom line is the volume of information isn’t the issue; findability is. If you can find whatever you’re looking for instantaneously, the total volume of information stored doesn’t matter.
We can draw an analogy to the greater Web. The size of the Web continues to grow exponentially, but it causes no problem, because Google has solved the findability problem. We don’t wish for fewer Web pages out there. Instead, we care about finding the right Web page in the shortest amount of time. No matter how much we obsess about creating and organizing our bookmarks, in almost all cases, searching Google is the shortest route to the best answer.
Heavy users of e-mail see upwards of 200 to 300 messages per day. Add documents, spreadsheets, and presentations and this number balloons. How does the average professional know what will not prove to be valuable information months and years later?
As businesses continue to use e-mail as the primary form of communication, keeping a digital trail of conversations and documents is critical, making deletion an increasingly irresponsible action. Findability remains the key, and today’s impressive search and retrieval tools for e-mail and personal files make virtually any digital information available with just a few keystrokes.