Modern Etiquette: How to cope with email overload

Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:50am EDT
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(Richard Baum is the global editor, consumer media for Reuters. The opinions expressed are his own.)

By Richard Baum

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Imagine if hundreds of people were talking to you simultaneously about dozens of different topics and each was expecting an immediate response.

You'd go crazy, or at least turn up the volume on your iPod.

Yet that's what it can feel like when you look at your email inbox: a surfeit of questions, comments and come-ons that invite a speedy reply.

We know that it's polite to respond quickly -- it's an etiquette instinct we've evolved ever since stone age man procrastinated with the cave-to-cave salesmen hawking iron.

And it's increasingly a reason why we're checking our BlackBerrys so often.

More than one quarter of Americans and a fifth of Britons who check email outside of business hours do so because they feel they are expected to provide quick responses, even outside "regular" business hours, according to a survey published this month by Xobni, a maker of software for searching your Outlook email.

(The quote marks are there for people who think the workplace abandoned regular hours at around the same time that Motorola thought it would be a great idea to let people carry phones in their pockets.)   Continued...

<p>A man works on his laptop in a file photo. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino</p>