Email and Productivity

I have read plenty of blog posts, books and articles that focus on email and how it really hampers productivity in the workplace. I doubt that there are many that would argue that they do not spent a bunch of their day inside of email. Do a quick study with your co-workers about how many emails they get a day? Or how much time they think they spend inside of email (throughout the day and night)? There have been plenty of studies that have happened over the years about those very questions. For me, I always seemed to feel comfortable with these statistics. The average corporate user spends two hours and 14 minutes per day on email. During that time each person is working through some 114 emails. You have to ask yourself. “is this a good use of their time?” I truly think not.

I used to do some different things to help me be more productive in the office (which I have carried over to my outside interests as well). Here are my tricks:

  •  Only be download email 3x per day! I would only connect to the email server 3x per day (9am, 1pm and 4pm). It was a way for me not to get distracted with the next “new, big or shiny” thing… This did not mean that I was not working with emails that I have already received, it just meant that I was not going to get any new ones.
  •  Block time for email. Within my calendar I would block regular time for doing email. It is easy to get started working within email and get completely lost on time. I actually had blocked a complete day for making sure that I completed my team’s performance appraisals. Made the mistake of taking on a few emails and at lunch time, I left the email world. That was a whole half of a day that I did not use for the intended use of my time. I ended up spending my evening from my family completely my tasks.
  •  Communicate with your team about how to get a hold of you. Since I was not longer looking at my email inbox 100% of the time, my team was worried that they would not get ahold of me, when needed. I told them that we still had IM and the land line for emergencies. If I was not available that way, they could always call my cellphone. All I asked of them was to insure that “this” was needed instant communication. If they could answer that with a yes – then by all means IM or call.

I know that some folks are going to say that their work is really needed ASAP. That there is no way that they can leave their email inbox not connected to the server. To those folks, “it must be great to know that you are more important than everyone else in the world.” Emergencies do happen, we all know that. When was the last time that an emergency came in on email, that had to be acted on within seconds of the email being sent? Is email really the best mode of communication for emergencies? No way!

I am not a fan of email. I get that it has its importance! I worked in a culture that when the email server went down, the complete company wondered what to do with themselves. Email is a time sync and sometimes that time spent is wasted. Think about what you are trying to do with email. Is it the best tool for your mode of communicate?