Productivity: Emails

“I’m pretty sure people are going to start writing letters again once the email fad passes.”
–Willie Geist, co-anchor of MSNBC’s Morning Joe

I love emails. There. I said it. An inbox brimming with emails makes me feel important. Reading and writing emails makes me feel productive. And so there was a time in my work life where I could spend multiple hours a day checking email, composing email, and everything in between. It just made me feel really productive.

But at the end of the day, am I really being productive? In another post, I said that productivity is about doing the right things that move a particular goal forward (see post here). Now there are times when checking and sending email is the right thing to do. If emails are left un-responded to, it will bog down work for you and for others. But I don’t need to spend countless hours on email usage alone. For some odd reason, I felt like I had to check my email once every hour (or more frequently) and that often distracted me from the bigger things that I had to accomplish. There’s just something about emails that make it the guilty pleasure of the corporate/office world.

Months ago, I decided to cut down on my email usage. Some of the things that I started doing included:

  • Setting a time of the day when I will check my email account and respond to emails. I usually do this at noon after completing a major task and once more in the afternoon after completing a second major task.
  • Leaving emails un-responded to in the evening. Unless it’s urgent (which is very rare), I leave it alone and decide to respond to it the next day. I do the same for text messaging.
  • Writing short and straight-to-the-point emails. This saves a tremendous amount of time for both me and the recipients of my emails.
  • Unsubscribing from useless lists that plague my inbox. This ensures that what enters my inbox is relatively important.
  • Responding only to the sender. I can’t believe how many times I find myself cc’d to emails that I really don’t need/want to be on. Of course, I include others in the email when it’s appropriate.

I’m certainly grateful for the invention of the email because it’s helped me communicate with others in a quick, reliable, and cost-effective way. I believe emails were meant to increase productivity and they certainly have. But like every other technology out there, emails can easily succumb to unproductive uses especially when thoughtlessly handled.