How much of your job is driven by email? I’m one of those people who stops everything whenever I see a number on the email icon – on any one of the many devices I have which can read emails. I know it’s wrong; but equally, I’ve seen people who apparently have thousands of unread emails – isn’t that just as wrong?
I’ve seen studies that say we check for email 36 times an hour, and that we spend 13 hours a week reading and managing email. I’ll just leave a paragraph break here while you digest those statistics.
Even if those figures are exaggerated by weird outliers, one thing’s for sure: the interruption caused by checking and reading an email must cause a lack of productivity. There’s a study for that too, of course: it claims that the time taken to refocus fully on the job is an astonishing 16 minutes. I know some people who declare “email bankruptcy” whenever their “unread” list gets too big (such as after a holiday). The whole lot goes in the bin, on the assumption that if it was important, whoever sent the email would get back in touch.
I wondered how this might work, so I just looked at my own business emails. I appear to get around 350 a week, of which maybe 50 are from clients, and are therefore of top priority, and about the same number are from colleagues, so they need to be read and actioned, but perhaps not urgently. The rest fall into different categories, but to be honest, I could write some mail rules and file most of them away invisibly, perhaps to be examined if I get a spare hour at the end of the week. That’s one thing I think I’m going to do this year.
How else can we get away from being governed by email? Certainly switching off any email notifications, for sure. Getting into the habit of looking at our email inboxes less frequently is harder, but I’ve decided to quit out of my email application after every time I use it. That may work.
I’m also giving up what little email “management” I still do, which is some occasional labelling. It’s really not necessary, but at least I’m not one of those people who puts every email into its own labelled folder. Seriously, if you still do that, you really do need to have a rethink. Just put every old email into one big archive, and use search.
What tips and tricks do you have for getting away from email tyranny? Let me know in the comments.