How to prevent emails from annihilating your productivity

email and productivity

Do you also feel overwhelmed and stressed out sometimes by all the e-mails you have to answer? No wonder, as the average office worker receives around 87 emails per day. Also, we check our emails an staggering 11 times per hour! Moreover, 70% of the emails are opened once they are received.
How can we prevent emails from killing our productivity? Here’s 5 tips that you can apply right away and some of the research why it is important to apply those tips.

Some staggering results from research on distractions (like email)

The way most of us deal with our email actually is harmful to our productivity. And unfortunately, not only our productivity is impacted by email, but also our general sense of wellbeing. By constantly checking and answering our emails, we raise the cortisol in our blood – which makes us feel stressed. Moreover, we are less able to make good judgments and are less able to control ourselves.

On this site I found some more consequences of not using email in a mindful way:

  1. At work, distractions like email take up more than 2 hours of our time.
  2. Once interrupted, we take over 20 minutes to again pick up what we were working on.
  3. Constantly being connected affects our IQ in the same way as using marihuana or losing a night’s sleep.

It is very important to realize that we cannot get done anything meaningful if we get distracted all the time. In his research, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly notes that a state of flow helps us to achieve meaningful work. Flow is a state in which we are highly concentrated and in which skill and challenge are in balance. Moreover, when we are in a state of flow we’re generally happy.

However, this will not happen when constantly we’re distracted by emails.

5 tips prevent emails from killing your productivity

  1. Select 2 or 3 timeslots during the day to follow up on your email:
    This way you don’t have to switch tasks every single time you get a new message.
  2. Switch of your email program and email notification:
    Our brain has a preference for novelty. We’ll get a hit of dopamine (like an internal reward) each time we hear the sound of a new email or see the email notification in our task bar. Each time we’re also distracted: unfortunately we can’t help it as nature build us this way. Even if you’re not opening the email, you are distracted. Therefore you should switch off all email notifications and close your email program if you’re not using it.
  3. Use rules in your email program:
    When you are in CC, you’re probably not required to respond. So there’s your first rule you can set up: direct the emails in which you’re included in CC to a separate folder. They’re probably not urgent anyway and otherwise somebody else is not properly using email protocols ;).  When you have time to spare, you can read through them. If not, you can ignore these emails altogether. You can also set up more elaborate rules, such as emails from your direct manager goes to the “priority” inbox.
  4. Do not reply to all emails first:
    If you’re in an email loop with more people who can answer a question, try to experiment with not answering the email and letting someone else answer. This may save you some time.
  5. Do not try to clean up everything:
    This may feel counterintuitive, but do not aim at neatly cleaning your email into separate subfolders. This is only necessary for the more important emails, which you should be able to lookup quickly. For the rest it doesn’t matter all that much and archiving those emails will make you spend time you can also spend on actual work. We have massive amounts of storage and increasingly better search functionality in our email inboxes, so why not use this to our advantage?

I hope you can use my tips for managing your email. Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope to see you back next week for another blog post!

Below you can find an interesting Ted Talk of Mihaly Csikszentmihaly on flow, which I mentioned in this post.

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