Not sure where all of your time at work goes?
Here are a couple staggering statistics:
On average people send and receive 126 work emails per day which adds up to about 13 hours of your time per week. And that doesn’t include personal email.
Of course this is partly due to the prevalence of email as a form of communication in the workplace. People began using emails in the 1990’s but it was the invention of Blackberries in 2003 and later smart phones that made email instantly accessible and as a result the popular choice for sharing information.
The bigger problem is that while we are doing all that emailing, we can be pretty mindless when it comes to how we are doing it. We are not using email – email is using us. That’s because we spend half of our time in reaction mode and the rest of it functioning on auto-pilot when it comes to our inbox.
Does this sound familiar:
You come in to work and the first thing you do is open your email and scan through the messages. Perhaps you read some of them. Mentally you make a note that you’ll get to it later. Maybe you reply to a few and then turn your attention the first item on the day’s schedule. When new emails arrive, a bell chimes or a box pops up to let you know, so you stop whatever you are doing to take a peek to see what message has arrived. When you are bored, frustrated or stuck with a task you are working on, checking your email acts as a little break.
Email becomes time consuming and ultimately inefficient. By bringing a little mindfulness to the way in which we use email, we can become more efficient and productive. Here are 3 ways to be more mindful when using email at work:
On checking email
Instead of habitually checking email without even thinking about it, set some specific parameters around when you do it. Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Work Week, suggests creating an autoresponder that lets people know when you read and reply to email. It might look something like this:
I am currently checking and responding to email twice daily at 10am and 4pm. If you require urgent assistance that cannot wait until either 10am or 4pm, please contact me via phone at 555-555-5555. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.
If that makes you gasp, remember people respond and adapt to the expectations we set. Typically we just don’t set our expectations consciously.
Avoid checking email first thing in the morning. When we check email first thing, it’s easy to get distracted from what it most important for the day. Wait at least 30 minutes so you can focus on organizing your top priorities for the day.
Pay attention to the urge to check your email outside of the times you have scheduled. Take that urge as a signal to pause for a moment, take a breath and ask yourself what you really need instead. A stretch, a walk, or a snack will likely serve you better. Name what is happening for you – boredom, frustration, indecision, confusion then choose a response that fits the situation.
Turn off all notifications or limit them to people who always require an urgent response. Remember there is a difference between urgent and important. Important means it needs my attention. Urgent means it needs my attention right now. For most people in most workplaces, emails might be important but they are not urgent.
On replying to email
Consider whether the topic of the email is actually best handled by an email reply. A phone call or in person conversation is usually better for items that are sensitive or contentious. If the recipient of your email is within arms’ reach, go and talk in person. It builds better community and your body will appreciate the walk.
When you read an email, try switching places with the sender for a moment – what are they trying to accomplish with this email? It’s easy to jump to conclusions or make assumptions when reading email, so pause long enough to consider the sender’s intent.
Before you hit send on any email, pause, breath and re-read what you have written. That gives you a chance to edit or clarify your message.
On organizing your email
There’s nothing like 638 things in your inbox to distract you. Make tidying up your inbox a daily habit. Avoid using your inbox as a to-do list. There are better planning and scheduling systems. Trash spam right away. Read emails and reply rather than storing. Delete what you don’t need and delegate what is not your direct responsibility. Unsubscribe from things you don’t read regularly.
Email is not a bad thing. It’s how we consciously use it that turns it into a tool or a time waster.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, share, like, tweet and/or pin this article.
What’s your best mindful email tip?