What can you learn about yourself from your email?

After people have used RescueTime for a while, one of the most common time-sinks they report is email. It often comes as a pretty big shock, people think they check email a few times a day, and have no clue how it ultimately ends up eating up 30-40% of their time. Since it can be such a black hole, it’s probably worth trying to understand that time a little bit better, right?

Earlier this week Romain Vialard, a Google Apps Script Top Contributor, released Gmail Meter, a Google Apps script that will scan your inbox and create a report showing a bunch of interesting insights. You can find out things like:

  • How many conversations (email threads) did you have last month?
  • What hours of the day are you most active in email?
  • What days of the week do you send or receive the most emails?
  • How long does it take you to respond?

And a whole bunch more.

The installation was a little weird (you have to create a Google Docs spreadsheet, then install the script into it), but once it was set up and generated the report, I immediately learned a bunch of things that I wasn’t aware of before.

For instance, I send the more emails on Monday and Friday by a large margin. That sort of makes sense, but my RescueTime data shows that I spend a pretty consistent amount of time in email every day during the work week. That begs the question “what am I doing in email Tuesday-Thursday that’s taking up so much time?” I also found that I can DRAMATICALLY reduce my incoming email volume if I just stop about 6 or 7 automated emails that quite honestly I don’t really have much use for. Bringing down the size of my inbox will hopefully lead to less time that I have to spend in it.

It’s something I’d personally like to dig quite a bit deeper on when I get some spare time. Stephen Wolfram did an exploration of more than 20 years of his email history, and it revealed some really interesting insights, not just about his communication patterns, but about his life in general.

Unfortunately, as the name implies, Gmail Meter only works with Gmail.

Have you used any tools to understand your email usage?

One Comment on “What can you learn about yourself from your email?”

  1. obadonke says:

    Xobni does a similar job for Outlook as well as providing an incredibly fast search facility. http://www.xobni.com/ . I’ve been using it for years now. By the looks of it they have a Gmail plugin too.