How productive are you?
Really. We’re in a safe place. How productive are you?
For me, working from home and project-based (meaning, if it’s not billable to a client or approved administrative work, I don’t get paid), I realized I was averaging 10 hours a day and only able to bill for 6-7 hours. Where was all of that extra time going? How could I be sitting at my computer for so long and not be able to account for my time?
The Main Culprit: EMAIL.
I keep my company email pulled up with a little alert on the tab that indicates if I have new mail. I also keep open an account for support for one of our clients so that I know when there is a need. I was constantly looking up for a red dot or a (1) in the email tabs while I was working on other projects. Additionally, my computer would make noises if new mail came in or if someone liked my message. I would stop what I was doing to check to see what the email was about, address it, make a call if needed, then forget what I was even doing in the first place. I thought I was being proactive having it pulled up all of the time and responding immediately. I wasn’t being productive. I was creating stress for myself and making myself a little nutty.
My boss has long testified that email is a productivity killer. I had a somewhat different perspective. At my last job, I was expected to keep my email pulled up all day and was often admonished if I missed something even though we had a messaging system for immediate concerns. I’d been trained (read: politely harassed) to place email on the same pedestal as a call, text, or instant message.
Who was right regarding email and productivity? What should our expectations be surrounding email? I did some reading. There are countless articles, blogs, etc. online regarding this subject. I’ve listed a few below. In some jobs, email is the primary mode of communication and should be checked and dealt with immediately. Most of us, though? We don’t need to keep it pulled up. We can (and should) set an email checking schedule and leave the email app or tab closed or minimized. What about the dreaded email build up? I have a few simple suggestions I gathered from my reading.
- UNSUBSCRIBE: Keep your work email for work. Unsubscribe to all of the unnecessary adds, promotions and alerts. You don’t need to be notified who twittered what or if someone checked your LinkedIn page. You will see that when you open those accounts. If you really need to know which store is going to give you 10% off your $50 purchase, subscribe with your personal account.
- USE FILTERS: Use your email filters. They are there for a reason. Your mail is automatically sorted into folders. It will take just a few minutes to set up and you can adjust the folders as your needs change. If you don’t know how to use them, Check out the KHIT Guides for Gmail and Outlook.
- DELETE/ARCHIVE: Be cutthroat with that delete/archive button. If the email does not pertain to work or to you, delete it! Otherwise you will be dealing with it later.
- SCHEDULE EMAILS: Use the scheduling feature on your email. I do this all the time now when I know I need to reachout to someone on a particular day regarding an update on a project or a task. This helps keep me from stopping in the middle of a task at 2pm to compose an email I meant to send at 9am.
- SCHEDULE TIME: Set aside scheduled time throughout the day to address your inbox and stick to it! When you address the email, actually deal with it and archive it. If you need to wait on a response or a task to be completed, have a folder for that. For my work email, I’ve started checking it less often. I’m still working on a schedule that works best for me since I work remotely.
Email is only one tool for communication and in most cases should be used for non-urgent needs. When you have no boundaries with emails, you are training yourself that every email is urgent and must be addressed immediately. That’s stressful, disruptive and counter productive.
Turns out my boss was right. The way I was handling email was killing my productivity. She loves being right.
Do yourself a favor: Set boundaries with your inbox.
Your productivity will improve.
Future you will thank you.