I’m no productivity guru. However, a few months ago, I came to a dramatic realization: checking my email can be a grand waste of time. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize this. Thanks to a few helpful comments in Four Hour Workweek, I was able to save scads of time simply by checking my email less frequently.
Email itself not a waste of time. Rather, checking my email so frequently was becoming a time drain. “So what?” I would think to myself, “I’m just clicking a tab on my browser, looking it over…No big deal.”
Actually, it was a big deal. The little tab click thing was actually creating a mind shift as well. I was distracting myself from my task, diverting my entire attention to something else, squandering away a few minutes on needless archiving, then trying to revert my attention back to the important task. With that happening so frequently throughout the day, precious minutes were being wasted.
So, I decided to deal with my email in chunks of time, at specific points throughout the day. At 11a and 4p, I would go to my email and deal with it. Sometimes, it takes me an hour to deal with it all. Sometimes it takes me a few minutes. All I know is that somehow, I am now able to do more, to focus more, and to get more stuff done.
Today, I read this sad statement by productivity coach Jared Gorlanick:
Most people spend more time during the week on email than they do with their families. They also lose a quarter of those days to recovering from interruptions, primarily due to email.
Of course, I don’t always stick to my regimented email times. I realize, however, that email is a tool to help my work and communication; it’s not the master of my day. Despite the addicting dopamine rush of new messages, I have better things to do all day than keep clicking that tab with the red envelope…that time monster.