Under the category of “Least Mindful Things You Can Do,” checking my email while on a beautiful mountain bike ride has to be at the top of my list. It was pathetic -- I would stop to catch my breath, and the next thing I knew my phone was in my hand, and I was opening up emails. And worse -- I read them. And even worse, sometimes I would respond to them!!
You see, I used to be a habitual email checker. From the minute my eyes opened in the morning, sporadically throughout the day, and again after dinner -- it was nonstop. I knew it was bad, but I never knew exactly how bad until I decided I would calculate how often I was in my inbox. For a month I tracked this, and on average I was spending (or, more accurately, wasting) 3 hours and 15 minutes EVERY DAY on email.
When we randomly check emails while trying to accomplish other tasks we are multitasking – and the human brain was not designed to multi-task. While we can hold several chunks of information in our mind at a time we can’t perform more than one conscious activity at a time without impacting performance.
As we attempt to perform several mental tasks at once, such as respond to an email while writing up a contract, accuracy and performance drop off quickly. Constant emailing and texting reduces mental capacity by an average of 10 points on an IQ test. This effect is similar to missing a night’s sleep!
Here’s what happens tactically when we don’t check our email all the time:
- We accomplish more work, more quickly
- The quality of our work improves because we are not distracted
- Without constant interruption we achieve deeper levels of thinking - the type of thinking that fosters creativity and innovation
- Those who work for us learn how to put out their own fires because they know we are not available to solve their problems instantly with every email they send
We wind up with roughly 75 more minutes in our day to workout, play with kids, grow our business, you name it!
Three tips to help you get out of your inbox and back into your life:
1) Make a schedule. How often do you NEED to check your email? What times of day are most important for this type of communication? Create a schedule for checking email and stick to it. You can also let others know your schedule with a simple message in your signature like this:
P.S. In order to do my best work for you and other clients, my team and I limit the times we check and respond to email. I check email once mid-morning and once mid-afternoon, and I stay out of email completely on Sat-Sun. When you contact me, I'll reply in 1-2 business days. I look forward to talking with you!
2) Eliminate all notifications. Unless your job is dealing with seriously life threatening issues on a daily basis there is no need for you to be notified the INSTANT every message is received. Turn off all pop ups on your computer and notifications on your phone.
3) Make a plan for emergencies. Communicate with your team. If they have something that requires your immediate attention, ask them to give you an actual phone call.