Is Email Killing Our Productivity?

Is email killing our productivity?

If the first thing you do, once you’ve sat down at your desk in the morning, is to head to that little email icon, click it and leave the application open all day long then the answer to this question is most likely; YES.

Can you remember how you managed before email?  Did you know email has just had it’s 45th Birthday?  There’s no argument here; email changed the way we do business.  Has that change been for the better though?  Is it going through a bit of a midlife crisis?

Email has long been seen as a good form of communication, it’s fast, it’s convenient, it helps us communicate with multiple people at the same time.  The flip side to email though is; it’s demanding, it’s intrusive, and if not managed correctly it’s incredibly time consuming.

  • Over 200 billion email messages are sent and received every day
  • Email occupies 23 percent of the average employee’s workday
  • The average employee checks their email 36 times an hour

So if email is such a drain on our productivity, what’s the answer?

A study undertaken on the impact of task switching found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.

For this very reason it’s generally a good idea to schedule specific time to check email, for example, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  It’s easy to spend an entire day responding to emails as and when they come into your inbox, so limiting the number of times you have your email open will avoid this inevitable outcome.

Keeping your email application closed not only prevents notifications from sliding in at the top of our screens, but it also prevents the temptation to multitask.  Some say you’re more efficient if you’re multitasking, but at my VA company, we believe in focusing on a single task, i.e. the art of doing one thing to its natural conclusion and without interruption.  I’ve heard this referred to as Monotasking and it helps you to feel more present in your work, more engaged, calmer and more at ease with the world around you.

What are the alternatives?

The thought of not having email is sometimes quite a pleasing idea, unfortunately due to it being so engrained in our business lives it’s unrealistic to consider the option to stop using it.  Very successful business models are working as we speak that run on very limited email:  Autommatic, a company valued at over one billion-dollars functions with minimal email communication.

A major issue with email is the silo of information they can become.  How many times have you been cc’d into a catch all email, that just clogs up your inbox, and thought ‘why am I copied in?’.  Or how about the time you spoke to a client and they said I’ve emailed your colleague, and now your colleague is on holiday?

Tools such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts are changing the way we can communicate.  Internally, we use Slack amongst our teams and clients, it promotes a positive level of transparency to our communication.  With the ability to set our status, team members and clients quickly evolve their communication style.  I find I receive less ‘noise’ and when something urgent needs my attention team members can see I’m offline so I will receive a phone call.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on email?  Do you think it’s having a bit of a midlife crisis?  What are your tips on managing communication? Please do drop your thought in the comments below.

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