By Wayne Turmel, co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute.

How much time does the average employee spend on email each day? You’d think that’s a simple question, demanding a simple answer. But it’s not.

When I went to the magic Google Machine and asked that question, the top five answers not only differed, but answered an entirely different question: “How much time is wasted on email each day?” Now, that implies two problems. The first is that nobody really knows the answer to how much time we spend on email because it varies from person to person and day to day (but—spoiler alert—it’s a lot).

The second is that there is an implication that email, by definition, wastes time. Call me sentimental, but I don’t think ALL email wastes time, but boy I’ll grant you it can feel like it.

In terms of how much we spend, the estimates range from six hours a day to somewhere between a third and a half of our day reading and responding to email. That’s a lot of time, money and brain cells expended. Here’s some simple math.

Let’s assume you’re making a salary of $50,000 per year, or $25 per hour. If we figure an eight hour work day (stop laughing) and a third of that is spent on email, that’s 2.64 hours a day. That’s $66 per work day, or $1,320 a month. That by the way is purely hourly cost, it doesn’t include lost productivity, rework or mental health costs.

Now let’s think about how much of that time and money is truly wasted. It seems endless: spam, “keeping you in the loop” emails (despite your desire to escape the loop), thank-you and one-word response emails, and more keep coming and sucking up all your time.

How do we stop email from slowly draining our will to live?

  • Take the 30 seconds to unsubscribe to newsletters, ads and other things that you no longer want. If it does nothing more than shrink the volume of email, you’ll still feel awfully proud of yourself.
  • Check email only a few times a day. You’d be surprised how much “urgent” correspondence really isn’t, and you can often combine several emails in one if you take the time. At least finish what you’re working on before diving into your inbox.
  • Send Instant Messages or pick up the phone! Email is not a synchronous tool, nor is it very good for immediate problem-solving involving multiple people.
  • Check out these other fantastic resources for using email. You won’t regret it.

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.

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