Despite all the messaging platforms, texting, and social media, email is still widely used as a reliable communication tool. Even teenagers still use email. However, as useful as it is, email kills productivity. It’s this nagging little thing that constantly jerks you away from other tasks and rarely helps you get more accomplished.
If you want to get more out of your workday, you have to find a balance between work and checking email. It’s not easy, especially when you’re in the habit of checking email above everything else.
Very few people would say they don’t get enough emails every day. A study by Adobe showed that the average American spends nearly six hours every day checking work and personal emails. Those six hours typically aren’t just during work hours either. Only forty-eight percent said they avoid checking emails before they start working. Others are checking before bed, while watching TV, during breakfast, and even while commuting.
There are numerous negative side effects from email overload. On average, people who do engage with emails after hours work as many as twenty more hours per week. For some, it’s not a choice but a requirement, as their bosses want to be able to reach them at any time.
With so many personal, work, and spam messages coming at you every day, how are you supposed to stay productive?
Constant Email Distractions
It wouldn’t be so bad if emails only arrived in batches. Instead, you likely have your email opened in your browser or have notifications dinging on your phone or tablet. Just when you’re starting to really focus, you see your browser tab light up or hear that all-important notification sound saying a new message has arrived.
When faced with the choice of continuing what you’re doing or quickly seeing what your new message is, you check your email. This is the most obvious way that email kills productivity.
Yes, emails are important for getting updates, communicating with clients and co-workers, and answering questions. However, every time you get distracted by an email, it can take as much as twenty-three minutes to refocus on the original task. Finishing your original task and only checking email between tasks boosts your productivity instantly.
Create Email-Free Work Hours
It’s undeniable that email kills productivity, but it doesn’t have to be a fact you just deal with. Instead, stop letting email control you. You don’t have to immediately check every message or respond to it.
Instead, create email-free work hours. For example, you may choose to only check and deal with emails three times a day, such as when you first start your workday, right after lunch, and the last hour of the workday.
If you have a job that does require you to check emails more often, set aside ten to fifteen minutes every hour for email, then silence your notifications and close your email client on your computer for the other forty-five to fifty minutes each hour. It’s a simple compromise, but one that can save you hours every day.
One easy way to keep to your email-free hours is to gamify it. Every time you succeed in not checking emails during the email-free work hours, give yourself a game point. See how many points you have at the end of the day and reward yourself if you can achieve a certain target.
Avoid the 24/7 Trap
Sadly, many companies want employees to answer email 24/7. That’s unreasonable. If you work from home, people may think you’re available to work anytime. That’s just not true.
Avoid checking email 24/7. You won’t actually accomplish more. Instead, you increase stress, reduce sleep, and focus less. You’ll make more mistakes. Even if you have a job that requires email 24/7, limit how often you check it. Set times for email. Always cut off or silence your phone before bed to let you sleep peacefully, and take a few minutes for yourself when you first get up.
Your mind, body, and productivity will appreciate it. Don’t let your email control you. You control it.