Last Updated May 2, 2011 4:45 PM EDT
For the past few years, I've had tons of people (including myself, as you can see from the time logs here and here) track their time in an attempt to answer this question. I'm a pen-and-paper kind of girl myself, but more tech savvy types ask for apps (there are several). So I was fascinated to see that Xerox has just released a desktop application called The Business Of Your Brain, which tries to track the day by analyzing your Outlook habits.
"We've become so completely dependent on Microsoft Outlook,â€ says Christa Carone, Xerox's chief marketing officer. "The first thing you do in the morning after you get that cup of coffee is click on the mail icon on your desktop. Now you start managing your day based on email and your calendar.â€ The Business of Your Brain app runs your emails through its algorithm to determine who sends the most "reply allâ€ emails, which drama queen sends the most emails marked "urgent,â€ who shows up in all of your meetings, how much time you spend in meetings, what kind of email volume you're generating, and other tidbits that will hopefully shed light on your day.
Carone isn't just foisting this product on the world, though. She's also tried it on herself, with her team learning some fascinating things over the past few months of testing.
For instance, 30% of Carone's email volume comes on Friday. Though we normally think of Friday as a "slowâ€ day, "Friday tends to be a pretty high activity day, with people gearing up for the weekend,â€ she says. The downside for managers? All your employees' frenzied emailing is with their friends and families about weekend plans, rather than being work related.
Carone learned that she used the buzz word "leverageâ€ 65 times in a month.
She realized that one chatty member of her team was emailing 3-4 times an hour with updates.
Carone also learned that "the amount of time spent in meetings is amazing.â€ The day we talked, she had 4.5 hours of meetings scheduled, with an average of 8 people per meeting -- way too many to be focused. "I would question the productivity of that time,â€ she says. "When you actually look at it on a clock, it's a little bit startling to me.â€
On the upside, an analysis of her emails finds that "I use 'thank you' quite a bit,â€ says Carone. "Clearly my mother would be pleased.â€
Knowing all this information is enlightening, but the real hope is that you'll use it to make your days more efficient. Carone, for instance, plans to use the word "leverageâ€ less often. She and her motormouth colleague have decided that there was an opportunity to consolidate his updates into slightly less frequent emails. Over the long run, the plan is to re-examine how many people need to be in each meeting so that, rather than meeting endlessly, they can do their real work (and hopefully not just send more emails).
What do you think an analysis of your inbox would find?