Beware! Checking Your Email May Hurt Your Productivity

13 Oct, 2015 Productivity

Email has become an integral part of our daily lives. Whether it’s for personal or professional purposes, the large majority of Americans check their email daily. While this habit may seem harmless enough, there’s new evidence suggesting that email can actually hurt your productivity levels.

How Much Time Do We Spend Checking Email?

According to a recent study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, the average person spends a jaw-dropping 13 hours accessing, reading, sorting, deleting, creating and sending emails each week. To put that number into perspective, that’s roughly 28% of the typical 40-hour workweek.

So, how is email able to hurt our productivity levels?

Well for starters many people invest a significant portion of their day to checking email. They may constantly hit the “refresh” button in their inbox every couple of minutes, waiting for new messages to arrive. Each minute spent reading an email, however, is a minute that could be used for more attentive work-related purposes.

Another issue associated with email is spam. While the exact number remains unknown, some experts have suggested that nearly 70% of all email messages sent are classified as spam. The good news is that most email servers have filters built in to prevent spam from showing up in users’ inboxes. The bad news, however, is that some spam will inevitably slip through the cracks. Workers must constantly rummage through their inbox to separate the legitimate messages from the spam, which of course takes time and energy.

As noted by Graham Allcott, founder of Think Productive, email accounts containing large numbers of messages can result in information overflow. The human brain isn’t designed to process large lists such as this, so it tends to reflect negatively on one’s productivity.

Your short-term memory doesn’t want to hold 15 or 20 things at once. If you have 100 messages in your inbox and some of them are off the screen, you create a stress based around the fear that you might be overlooking something that’s not on the first page,” said Graham Allcott, founder of Think Productive. “Even if you have 20 messages sitting in front of you, you’ll be stressed because you’ll need to go back over those 20 items to work out how to process them.”

Does this mean you should stop using email and resort back to the archaic method of snail mail?

Not necessarily, but you should be aware of the impact that email has on your productivity levels. Rather than leaving your inbox open and hitting the refresh button, perhaps you can check it just three times throughout the day: once at morning, once mid-day, and a third time in the evening. You can also reduce the negative impact of email by keeping your inbox properly maintained. If you allow dozens or hundreds of messages to build up, you’ll naturally have a harder time going through them all.

Do you think checking your email can lower productivity levels? Let us know in the comments section below!

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