Most people now have at least one smartphone, normally a work phone, a blackberry and a personal phone. With our professional and personal inbox's bulging, is constantly checking our email turning us all into unproductive email junkies? An article in this Thursday's Evening Standard called "Supertask me", made me think. Now that we live in a world where we only are without email on a flight (a blissful respite that I am sure we will loose soon) are we all email junkies?
Checking your email is a double edged sword. On the one hand if you check it too often then it becomes too frequent an interruption, you feel very busy but checking it too often will adversely impact your productivity. On the other hand we’ve constantly got to be checking it, or risk the wrath of the bosses and co-workers that are trying to communicate with us. If we don’t respond to an email within 5 minutes, we’re seen as lazy or unproductive. As calling a co-worker when you want an urgent response has been replaced by email, the temptation is to constantly check your emails to demonstrate you are at the top of your game.
With the amount of email we receive now and need to respond to now, its very easy to feel overwhelmed. In today's world we are all adept at multi-tasking but really this means we are great at switching from one task to another. So how often so you switch from your real work to checking our email? This constant switching requires more mental effort than our actual work. Remember there’s a huge difference between being busy and being productive.
So how often should you check your email? There is no accepted norm, and you know your job better than any expert, so take the time to reflect on what will work best for you. Some experts suggest that you don't check your email first thing in a morning or you only check your email first thing in a morning. Personally I think these strategies only work if you are very high up on the food chain. Rod Kurtz of Business Week argues that you ought to be checking your work email five times per day. “Check your inbox only five times daily–first thing in the morning, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, and end of day. Or even less if you are capable. This works when you turn off the automatic send/receive function, allowing you up to two hours to focus on your work, rather than to be continually interrupted. It works when you group the sorting of your e-mail, making you more productive and efficient in dealing with it.”
With regards to dealing with email, every time you open a new email, ask yourself 3 basic questions:
1. Is this relevant?
2. Can I solve this?
3. Will it take less than 2 minutes of my time to deal with this? - If so deal with it straight away.
Make sure that you schedule your email time in such a way that you avoid confusing the being busy with email and real work. If you approach your email with the correct attitude, you can boost your productivity by leaps and bounds and you free yourself from being an email junkie.