Want to Be More Productive? Check Email at This Time
This is the first piece in a new "Want to be more productive?" series. Each Monday I'll share one of my productivity "hacks" with you, which you can use any day of the week.
Mondays, in general, are my most productive day of the week. If they're not the same for you, these quick productivity tips will help you a lot! If Mondays already are your most productive day, then you can count how many of these tips you're already doing as we go.
We all want to be more productive. Why wouldn't we? Being able to do more with less is part of the dream. If you could get as much done in six hours as you normally would in a full day, why work eight or more? That's what this series is here to help you accomplish.
There are dozens of things we take for granted everyday. They may seem insignificant, but they all come together to make up your day as you know it. In this series I'll be unpacking what these little details of each day are, and how they can be used to maximize productivity. This, of course, will have all sorts of benefits for both your career and your home life.
Today's productivity tip involves your email account(s). Too many people check their email far too often. Many keep it open as a tab on their browser so they can check it a thousand times a day, or notice the flashing "new mail" tab as soon as a new message comes in. Others have push notifications on their smart phones so as to be instantly notified wherever they are.
People do this because they think it's helping them be more productive. They're wrong. If you're always paying attention to your email, you're wrong.
Every time a person becomes distracted, it can take as much as 25 minutes or more to regain focus. Every time you check a "new mail" notification, you lose about twenty minutes of productivity.
How many times are you distracted by your email every day? How many times do you check your email to make yourself feel productive, even though you're doing nothing productive with it at all?
If this happens to you just three times a day, you could be losing an hour of productive focus each and every day. That's insane!
That means you have to work 40 hours a week to do what you could be doing in only 35. That's wasteful. And if we're being completely honest with ourselves, we're probably distracted by email much more than three times a day.
Here's what you should do about it. Only check your email once or twice a day. Don't let it be the first thing you do in the morning. If it is, you set a precedent for your whole day to be reactive and about responding to others. (You should really start your day by proactively doing things for your own benefit.)
The best time to check your email is probably during your lunch. It's beneficial for you to have an active lunch anyway. Checking your email, in the majority of cases, takes very little brain power. You can jump through all the notifications and spam quickly. You can mark your to-do list with whatever people are asking of you.
If there's something important to immediately attend to, you can. You're on your lunch break, which means you've made an intentional stop on other tasks. In this situation you're being productive, not distracted.
The average person receives 90 emails on any given work day. If you actually stop to check each email that comes in, you'll run yourself and your work into the ground. The average response time for an email, depending on the industry, context, etc., is anywhere from 47 minutes to 48+ hours. Most commonly it's around the 6+ hour mark.
This means that in most cases, an immediate response is neither necessary nor expected. If you wait a few hours before responding to others' demands, they're understanding. You're busy, you're not glued to every message that comes in. If you are paying attention to every single message, it means you're not working on other important tasks.
Worst case scenario, if you're worried about upsetting people, you have two options. You can check your email after 5pm as well - after a good, productive afternoon.
You could also tell anyone you communicate with regularly that you're switching to only checking your email once or twice a day, at lunch and maybe after 5pm, so as to use your time to provide more value for everyone. They'll respect you for that.