Friday, November 21, 2014

Email Response Time

Ever since I started a full time job, where I spend nearly all day answering work emails, it seems I am less and less interested in responding (or even reading) personal emails. At some point I realized Iwas being slow to respond, but I wanted to know, just exactly how slow.

So, I graphed it (numbers in days):

This data  comes from a Google App Script I wrote. Here's the source. Google App Script is great, it lets you write Javascript that has access to your Google Apps, like email, docs, etc. You can do stuff like send emails as a result of changes in your Docs, or in my case, run a script every day that reads your email and writes to a spreadsheet.

Here's how the script works, although there's definitely room for improvement. Every day it runs, it looks at my last 30 days of email, and for every email where I responded to someone else it adds up the delay between their email and my response. Additionally (and here's the kind of weird part that I think is creating the spikes in the above graph) I wanted to keep track of my outstanding responses and how long they were taking. My normal email workflow is that I keep things that I need to respond to in my inbox, so I decided to include for any email in my inbox, the time between the last email (as long as it wasn't from me) and the current date.

One final caveat was that, after 60 days I put a hard cutoff, since those are typically emails I just never respond to, and finally archive in shame.

So how does it look? For most (median) of my emails I respond in a few hours. But for the 99th%ile email, it is much worse, around 25 days, and even worse if you go back a month or so.

I definitely recommend Google Apps Script. It's easy, but super powerful because all of the useful data (i.e., yours) that the scripts have access to. I could even see it being a pretty good way to learn programming/JavaScript, since from day 1 you can do some pretty interesting things. 

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