Sunday, February 6, 2011

Visualizing my inbox load

The other day I happened to notice that I had received well over 100 e-mails in one day.  While that may or may not seem high to you, in my case this meant that I spent most of the day handling e-mails, since the majority of these actually required a response or some other action on my part (I'm organizing two workshops right now, which accounts for much of the traffic).

I thought back to grad school days when I might or might not receive any e-mail on a given day.  When did it all get so crazy?  I decided it would be fun to find out.  A bit of searching turned up the Python package imaplib, which allowed me to download headers for all messages (ever!) from my Gmail account.  Then it was just a matter of extracting and reformatting the dates and plotting up a histogram with matplotlib.  Here's the result:

Can you tell when I graduated and started working for KAUST?  In the last few months prior to starting at KAUST, I got an average of about 250 messages a month.  Within 2 months of starting at KAUST, that average was well over 1000, with some months substantially higher.  Ah, the joys of being a professor...


  1. Dear Professor,
    You are different from people who do not want to be disturbed.

  2. vasan: Actually, the last sentence was meant to be ironic. I don't think anyone really enjoys getting thousands of e-mails each month!

  3. KAUST comes with a huge load of emails. Though I have to say, for me, most of them are announcements that I couldn't care less about. 80% of the emails are not directed to me personally and and only third of the emails I get from KAUST are relevant.

    BTW, do you still have that script? Do you mind sharing it?

  4. Abdul, the script is in the next post, here: A reader published an extension of it here: