Technology continues to speed up but you don’t have to. You are the boss of your choices around your use of time, and you have the right to slow down, to take a break, to unplug or simply opt to go “digitally dark”. There. Is that all you needed? Permission? I hereby grant you permission not to wallow in your inbox and do something focused that nurtures your brain, your creativity, your energy, or your joy.
We all have the same 24 hours in each day, to spend or waste as we choose. The trouble is, we don’t often pay attention to how much of it we waste on email. Some researchers have said that for each email interruption to your work, you lose 20 minutes of productivity. Others have said that constantly checking your emails on an ongoing basis throughout the day actually kills more brain cells than if you spent that day smoking pot. Really?! That’s nuts!
We often confuse busyness with work. You can spend countless precious minutes (dare I say hours?) in the constant battle to reduce your inbox to a number below 10. Busyness is not productivity! Feel stressed? Overwhelmed? It may be that you feel on call 24-7 due to your email addiction. Yes, I said addiction.
The solution is this really fabulous Email Charter (10 Rules to Reverse Email Spiral) that was originated as a blog post from TED Curator Chris Anderson and TED Scribe Jane Wulf. They describe the problem thus:
The relentless growth of in-box overload is being driven by a surprising fact:
The average time taken to respond to an email is greater, in aggregate, than the time it took to create.
This is counter-intuitive because it’s quicker to read than to write. So you might assume a typical email takes a few minutes to write, but only a few seconds to read. However, five other factors are outweighing this.
– The act of processing an email consists of much more than just reading. There is a) scanning an in-box, b) deciding which ones to open, c) opening them, d) reading them e) deciding how to respond f) responding — which may well involve writing an email of similar length back g) getting back into the flow of your other work. So the arrival of even a two-sentence email that is simply opened, read and deleted can take a full minute of your available cognitive time.
– Many emails contain open-ended questions that can’t rapidly be responded to. “What’s your opinion on all this?” “How should I move forward?” Easy to ask, hard to answer.
– Many emails are sent to multiple recipients. It takes no time to add another cc, but each additional recipient multiplies the total response time demanded.
– Many emails contain additional text that has been copied and pasted from other documents or a lengthy thread that is simply being re-forwarded.
– Many emails contain links to web pages or videos. Easy to add a link. But it may take minutes to view it.
Now consider that the amount of time people are spending on line is increasing. It is, after all, a seductive place to hang out. As social creatures, it’s the most natural thing in the world to want to use that time to reach out to others. What is more the range of ‘distractions’ online is growing every year. And it’s easy (and often wonderful) to share them with our friends and colleagues. Just copy a link, paste and send… and boom, the world’s cognitive capacity takes another hit!
The result of all this is a deadly upward spiral.