There is a consensus that e-mail makes people less productive. The latest article I read, “E-mail is Making You Stupid” by Joe Robinson, shared some startling statistics: e-mail volume is growing at a rate of 66% per year.
So far, I have not been able to do what’s recommended: check e-mail at 2-4 designated times per day. However, I do generally close my e-mail program while I am writing. Considering it “takes a worker 15 minutes to refocus after an interruption,” I’m not a big fan of stopping to check e-mail or Facebook while trying to be productive.
One suggestion Robinson made that I really like is that if you send less e-mails, you’ll get less e-mails. He also advises putting “no reply necessary” in the subject line to signal that a conversation can be over.
The Future Mister Doctor has a practice of a double asterisks in the subject line to indicate that there is nothing in the body of the message. For example: “**meeting at 4PM tomorrow.” When you don’t have to open the message, it makes the process of checking e-mail faster.
I like to have a clean inbox, so I’ve recently been sorting messages into “This Week” and “Non Urgent” folders. True, I mostly never answer the non-urgent stuff. But that’s probably good (I’d only get more e-mails in return, right?). When all the pressing stuff is gathered in one place, I can go through it without becoming distracted by non-essential messages. Anything that doesn’t need a reply is deleted immediately. I am also a diligent unsubscriber from mass e-mails–I never let an unwanted sender into my inbox twice.
This system ensures that nothing truly important gets lots in the shuffle–since those messages stay in my relatively small inbox. The “This Week” folder ensures that I see what’s time-sensitive when I settle in for an e-mail session–usually a couple times a week. The Non-Urgent Folder gets mostly forgotten, but it’s in there because it doesn’t need to be stressed (for example, if someone sent me a link to an article they thought I would enjoy).
How do you keep e-mail from making you stupid?