BADLY managed email is the “number one drain” on many businesses’ productivity, it has been claimed.

Despite the rise of other ways to send messages, email traffic is predicted to grow by four per cent a year worldwide and 296 billion are sent each day.

This week has been International Clean Out Your Inbox Week, encouraging people to get to grips with email overload.

Monica Seeley, of Bournemouth-based Mesmo Consultancy, wrote Brilliant Email and The Executive Secretary Guide to Taking Control of Your Inbox.

She has been writing daily blog posts this week with tips on how people can clear up their inboxes. Her advice includes ways to prioritise email and stop non-essential mail from reaching your inbox.

She said: “It’s the number one drain on our productivity – badly managed email.”

On average, people receive an email every seven minutes, she said. The distraction of an incoming email adds 15 minutes to the task a worker is doing.

Half of received email in the UK is unnecessary and 28 per cent of the working day worldwide is spent on email.

“The worst horror stories are that I see people with thousands of them and they complain to the IT department that it’s all slow,” said Dr Seeley.

She is against the ‘Inbox Zero’ movement which aims to keep email inboxes empty or nearly empty.

“Inbox Zero has been proven to be totally unproductive. You should see your inbox, like a physical in-tray, as ‘work in hand’,” she said.

“If you don’t have lots of folders, just have one big one that you’re taking everything out of.”

She said the culture of an organisation was all-important when it came to email.

“Senior executives are some of the worst about clearing their inbox. They stay up late clearing it, knowing that it’s going to be full again the next morning,” she said.

A major problem is the widespread ‘copying in’ of other people into email correspondence, said Dr Seeley. “The public sector is the worst. They play ‘cover my backside’,” she said.

“If it’s really important, forward me an email and say, ‘You really need to know about this’.”

But she said entrepreneurs had their own problems with email management.

“In a big organisation, it’s very much a way of passing the buck. I do think entrepreneurs are not much better. They don’t have the ‘copy in me in’ response but they have a this instant rush response,” she said.