3 common email mistakes that kill productivity at work
Business Insider recently checked in with three productivity experts to find out what habits are wasting the most time at work.
They all said the same exact thing: email.
Forbes reported 66% of respondents to one productivity study said they check their inboxes first thing in the morning.
It's a habit that can prove to be a major pitfall.
"Your inbox is everyone else's to do list for you, aligned to their goals and objectives, not necessarily your goals and objectives," "Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style" author Carson Tate told Business Insider. "You are sacrificing one of the most productive periods of your day, the start, when you are fresh, alert, and not yet mentally fatigued to react to what everyone else wants from you versus using your focused energy to advance your goals."
She recommended forbidding yourself from checking your email the minute you get into the office. You can always allot some time at the end of the day for emails.
But it's not just about when we check our inboxes — it's how we write the emails themselves.
"We write emails that are far too long," "Four Seconds: All the Time You Need to Replace Counter-Productive Habits with Ones That Really Work" author Peter Bregman told Business Insider. "Shorter responses are read by the recipient. Longer ones are postponed."
And it's not just about quality — it's about quantity, too.
"Lots of email can overwhelm," "Finding Success in Balance: My Journey to The Cheerful Mind" author Apryl Zarate Schlueter told Business Insider. "How many times do you hear someone say something to the effect of, 'Ugh, there are 382 unread emails in my inbox'? The idea that hundreds of items are waiting for your response or action automatically makes you feel like you have too much to do, and cause stress."
This stress can further torpedo your productivity and cause you to procrastinate on more important tasks.
"Many times when I'm overwhelmed, the only thing I can do to calm the stress is to go through my inbox and file away emails, and that constantly takes me away from doing more important and pressing things," Schlueter said.
Email is a necessary part of modern work life. It's unrealistic to cut it out entirely. And sometimes, you're going to have to drop everything and respond to an urgent email.
But Schlueter, Tate, and Bregman have some suggestions for mitigating an overflowing inbox without sacrificing your own productivity.
• Stop using email for back-and-forth conversations between groups.
• Pick up the phone whenever possible.
• Use email filters to organize your inbox.
• Limit your inbox-checking to a certain amount of time, preferably toward the end of the day.