Definition: The 800-20 Rule

Graham Alcott  Think productive Pareto’s 80-20 rule says that about 20% of your emails will add 80% of the possible impact you can have through your use of email.

This leaves at least 80% of the emails you receive in the category of low priority, noisy, nice to have or plain useless.

I would actually go further than this and say that often when I’m coaching people, the numbers are even more extreme.

How rubbish fills the space provided

I will regularly have someone with 800 unread or un-dealt with emails in their inbox at the start of a session and a couple of hours later there are only around 20 emails left that require any significant action: so with email, don’t think 80-20, think 800-20.

For every 800 emails you have, there will be around 20 there that will matter and 780 that can either be deleted, filed or at worst, very quickly replied to in just a few seconds.

Instead of feeling burdened by a thousand emails, think of it instead as two-dozen conversations. The stuff that really matters is inherently manageable, but it does require some ruthless focus to find it in amongst the deluge of ‘cakes in the kitchen’ emails, software notifications, reply-alls and FYIs.

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