Design Productivity

Productivity Tip: Stop Constantly Checking Your e-mail

How many times do you check your e-mail every day?

If you are like most e-mail users, your e-mail program is set up to check for e-mails every 5-10 minutes. That’s a whopping 48-96 possible interruptions per day respectively! That’s like the mail person giving you letters every few minutes throughout the day. Oh! here’s another one.

Application Bar

This is a bad business and organizational practice.

  1. It is a sure way to get distracted from your tasks at hand.
  2. Answering e-mail throughout the day, instead of at a given time, can cause attention and focus deficits often resulting in poorly thought-out or rushed replies.
  3. Answering e-mail throughout the day will often create a “now or never” reply strategy.
  4. Constant interruptions can take their toll on your attitude and self-esteem.

After reading an article on e-mail productivity, I now check my e-mail approximately 5 times per day, which is about 5 possible interruptions per day (I say possible because I sometimes get no e-mail anymore now that I write more sensible e-mail messages).

h4. But what about those “Must respond” e-mails that need immediate attention?

Quite frankly, they don’t really exist. How many e-mails have you received that had to be answered immediately that couldn’t wait 2 hours?

  • Subject: I need the Jenkins file for my meeting in exactly 2 minutes!
  • Subject: The Building is ON FIRE you should think about leaving!

Do these e-mails look familiar? Probably not? It’s probably because e-mail is not used in this manner, because it doesn’t work effectively for these purposes.

If somebody needs something right now, or tell you something right now… they call or call and e-mail. Plain and simple.

Often we get so wrapped up in our now culture to even think that there is an alternative.

I urge you all, to try for one week, to check your e-mails at most once an hour and preferably manually. Or use the low tech version and quit out of your mail program between checkings. If you don’t notice a significant change in the way you feel about your e-mail productivity – you get your money back.

Happy correspondence-ing.

One reply on “Productivity Tip: Stop Constantly Checking Your e-mail”

Good point Ben.

What I do is – since I have two computers – and all my emails come into both – the additional problem is that of the 96 emails per hour, 50 are from friends family, 46 from clients and colleagues. So, on my office computer, I have put my friends family into my spam file which focuses my emails.

I also read the subject line, as you said, and skip those that are unessential until a time when I am less busy. But don’t most people do that?

I confess that I don’t think I’m physically capable of completely turning off my email even for an hour, as you suggest. I am a total junkie: And whenever someone starts the self help group – EAA – I will be first in line.


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