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Think Email Makes You More Productive? Think Again!

Email makes us feel more efficient, because it makes communication faster. Sometimes, however, faster communication doesn't equal productive communication.

If you send an email, you cannot expect that the recipient is sitting at her desk with nothing better to do than receive and respond to your email ... or can you?

Working people waste a lot of time emptying their inboxes. It's almost like playing the old arcade game Asteroids: you have to respond to each email/spaceship as it appears. The more emails you answer, the more points you get. The messages you let sit are like spaceships that hit the ground. Email inboxes should come with flashing lights and sound effects to complete the gaming experience.

In reality, the time spent looking away from your work, reading an email, drafting a response and then going back to the project adds up. It is similar to keeping a jar of pennies. Even if you drop a few pennies in the jar each day, the coins are worth so little that you feel like you're not saving anything. But before you know it, you've got dollars in that penny jar. Email is the same way. It feels like it doesn't take much time to check an email; in reality, doing so constantly over the course of the day takes up more time than dealing with all of your email once or twice during the day.

It is also true that the sometimes constant distraction of emails, phone messages, and texts causes real work to take much longer than it otherwise would. It takes time, after a distraction, to get back into thinking about the task at hand. 

Best practice for most working people is to set aside specific times during the day to read and respond to all emails. It could be every morning, every afternoon, or both, depending upon your needs. Check with your boss before setting up your system to find out if there are specific times during the day when she wants you to look at your email. 

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a system for dealing with email? Please tell us about it below so people can benefit from your experience.

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(Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee/Flickr)

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