I don't think many people are paid to read email. But looking at the inboxes of the world, and it seems we spend a lot of time doing it.
No, I don't have the full article, but the preview says enough for me, To Reduce E-mail, Start at the Top in the September HBR talks about a familiar problem. Too much email. And the suggested solution is something I've been saying for years:
The main reason our e-mail in-boxes consume so much of our time is that we have little control over how many messages we receive. But we can control how many messages we send. That seemingly obvious insight sparked a significant reduction in one company’s e-mail traffic: After the executives reduced their output, other workers followed suit.
I usually say something along the lines of "to get less email, send less email." One can do the analytics, but that shouldn't be necessary. When I try to organize something with friends, or if I fire off a question to a colleague, it might generate one response or it could generate a whole train of thinking/questions/clarifications. Even worse when multiple people are involved.
This article specifically talks about executives setting the tone for the organization. And that is certainly helpful. I think a single individual can take this thinking to heart as well. That said, it helps if everyone in the group are on the same page.
Any time I send a message that automatically generates a need to respond by the other person. It automatically creates a "to do" in their email box to at least read the message. And with the reading comes the response to fill up my mailbox.
So, what to do instead? Have a quick conversation over coffee. Give someone a call. Use your IM capability for those one-offs and ephemeral questions. Use the other social tools for open-ended questions.