How many times a day does an Outlook notification (or god help you, a sound) interrupt your flow and cause you to stop what you're doing?
It's highly distracting!
Be honest with yourself, how many times do you let this distraction interrupt your flow?
It's been proven that multi-tasking is impossible. Attempting to do it makes us less productive.
Your brain cannot split its attention. Instead, it has to stop focusing on one thing and focus on something else instead.
Switching between tasks takes time. You can't build up flow, and it takes time to re-focus.
Constant interruption (in other words, multitasking) makes us more stressed.
So why do we juggle important work with reading and replying to emails?
Is Checking Email a Way to Procrastinate?
Simply checking your emails every so often is a form of procrastination.
Many of us dive into our inbox as a means of escape when our current task gets too difficult. When we reach a creative roadblock, get bored or stressed, we stop what we're doing and switch to our email client.
We don't tell ourselves that we're avoiding the task we really want to work on. Instead, we convince ourselves that "doing email" is important work.
99% of the time, your emails can wait.
Ask yourself - if you could spend 2 hours replying to emails, or 2 hours working on your Most Important Task, which would add more value to the business?
The answer's obvious.
Email is not a priority. Stop letting it interrupt you.
Does holding onto emails invite more procrastination?
It's not uncommon for people to have multiples of 10 emails in their inbox at all times. None of the items are new, they're just old emails waiting for action.
Hanging onto emails makes procrastination extremely likely.
When you keep emails that still require action, you have to spend time re-familiarising yourself with them each time you open your inbox.
You tell yourself you're deciding what to action, but most of the time you just look at your emails for a bit before actioning none of them, then get back to your work.
You can end up wasting several minutes each time you look at your inbox, which for some people is upwards of 100 times per day.
Doing this tricks you into thinking you're doing meaningful work, but instead you're just wasting time looking at things you've looked at before.
Having too many choices can also lead to what's known as "analysis paralysis". You spend too long deciding what to do, and eventually don't decide on anything.
It's easy to spend 5 minutes looking at your emails, and then not do anything with any of them. You've merely reminded yourself of things you need to do at some point. This is time you could have spent working on your Most Important Task. Over the course of the day, week, month, etc. all that time adds up.
Why delay decisions?
Every email should be actioned the first time you see it. If the action will take less than 2 minutes, you do it there and then. If it will take longer, you schedule in a task for yourself. You then reply to the email if necessary and get it out of your inbox.
When you learn how to do this, you'll be ruthless at dealing with emails and you'll never have a backlog.
This is a strategy which I cover in the new ebook, "Cast Off Your Email Shackles".
This ebook will go into detail on:
- An extremely effective system for processing emails
- How to get more of the important work done during times you would be checking email
- Techniques to reduce email stress
- Ways to change your organisation's approach to email
- How to reach inbox zero and stay there