Email consumes significant time and attention in the workplace. We conducted an organizational survey to understand how and why people attend to incoming email messages. We examined people's ratings of message importance and the actions they took on specific email messages, based on message characteristics and characteristics of receivers and senders. Respondents kept half of their new messages in the inbox and replied to about a third of them. They rated messages as important if they were about work and required action. Importance, in turn, had a modest impact on whether people replied to their incoming messages and whether they saved them. The results indicate that factors other than message importance (e.g., their social nature) also determine how people handle email. Overall, email usage reflects attentional differences due both to personal propensities and to work demands and relationships
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