Is Email Making You Less Productive? Here's What You Can Do About It
I'll start this blog post by saying that I am extremely grateful for email. Emails are a very efficient way to communicate and give me the flexibility I need as an entrepreneur to succeed. I love emails because they allow me to do my job from anywhere in the world.
BUT. Emails can be incredibly distracting and limiting if they are not managed properly.
Statistics say that people check their email an average of 14 times per day. FOURTEEN. Not to mention, a study from the University of British Columbia found that people who put a limit on checking email saw a significant decrease in stress.
Email used to hijack me from productivity everyday.
My email addiction started innocently when I got my first office job at 19, working for an insurance firm. As I decorated my new abode (cubicle), I felt important and grown up. I had my own company email address and name placard. I had filing cabinets and a stapler. I had one of those signature stamps for smackin' paperwork. Sh*t was real, you guys. I was in the big leagues.
Each morning was usually spent greeting colleagues as they arrived, refilling my coffee cup in the break room, and then sitting down at my desk promptly at 8am (okay maybe 8:17am) to start checking emails. It might have taken me an hour to get through the first batch of messages, and then I’d start my actual tasks for the day. Honestly, most of the emails were either not meant for me directly, or were spam, or just didn't warrant a speedy response.
Starting my day this way was extremely counterproductive. It built a foundation for my day that was not prioritized with my best interests in mind.
Throughout the day, emails would pour through my inbox, mostly from mid-level managers or cross-departmental colleagues... and again, most of the emails were completely useless to me. They would flood in non-stop, I’d freeze dead in my tracks, read each one, and then start hitting the delete button... *DELETE, DELETE, DELETE*.
Each time I stopped to check ONE email, it would throw off my concentration for at least 5 minutes. Once I restarted the task that I interrupted myself from, it would take about another 10 minutes to "get in the groove" again. This would happen multiple times per day.
This happens to people EVERYWHERE. So many of us are stuck in email-land...and wonder why the day gets ahead of us so often.
The email habit stuck with me for most of my corporate career. When I got into media sales, I not only had my email set up on my personal phone, but had a company phone that was connected as well. There was never a time that I was off-radar. I would literally check my email while I went to the bathroom, sometimes while at stoplights driving, before bed, first thing in the morning...it was insane.
It wasn’t until I read The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris (not an affiliate link) that I started to approach email differently. In my honest opinion, I think that book promotes a entrepreneurial lifestyle that is unrealistic for most, but what I really took from the book was a new approach to emails that actually increases productivity vs damage it.
It made me realize how distracting my emails habits were.
If you start to pay attention to how much time you spend checking emails and reacting to external forces, I can confidently guarantee that many of you are also preventing yourself from being as productive as you can be.
If you are stuck in email hell, and are interested in a few tips to help you manage your inbox as productively as possible - here are my top 4 tips for managing your inbox to boost productivity:
Don’t check email first thing in the morning. Instead, write down the top 2 most important tasks you need to get done for the day, tackle those tasks, and THEN check your email.
I am now in the habit of checking my emails twice per day. If this thought terrifies you, just start checking your emails every 2-3 hours. The point is to avoid managing emails as they come in. This means you will need to disable those pesky notifications that pop up and stop you dead in your productive tracks.
Keep your professional emails clean of promotions and non-work related material. This is simple yet under-practiced.
Don’t put off important emails. It can be common to ignore the important emails and instead distract yourself by responding to less urgent/important messages. However, the difficult or important emails are usually the ones that have the power to propel our businesses forward.
Disable pop-up notifications and keep your email closed in your browser when you are working on important tasks.
Do you feel that email is distracting or do you find that you have a good handle on it? If you have additional tips and tricks for managing email more effectively - leave us a comment below!