How To Stop Wasting 2.5 Hours On Email Every Day

Let’s start with some frightening email statistics. On average, office workers receive at least 200 messages a day and spend about two-and-a-half hours reading and replying to emails. That’s a lot of time spent staring at a screen, a lot of it unproductive. It’s a tricky cycle to break as receiving emails releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical in our brain. We feel a small reward when we get an email, which keeps us locked into the email cycle and addicted to its grip. However, it comes at a cost. Email is a constant distraction that prevents us from engaging in proper, meaningful thinking. Lightening your email load allows you to get stuck into important work, rather than just managing minutiae. Here are some quick tips for breaking your email addiction.

Define Your Email Style

Some people write a little, some write a lot. Some write in text-speak, others in essays, some are formal and some are casual. And when you work with people with different styles to yours, tensions arise unless your style and expectations are properly communicated. When working with a project team, tell them up front how you operate on the email waves and have them do the same. Before I start any project, I like to tell my team that I like my emails like I like my dentist visits: short, to the point and only when necessary.

Create Email-Free Zones

On average, we check emails 15 times a day. Stop the incessant interruptions by setting just two email windows a day; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Use only these times to read and reply to your messages. At all other times, turn off your email notifications, even on your phone. If you need to, add to your signature that you will be available by phone, in case people desperately need to reach you. A simple “I’m trying to email less, and work more. Call me if you need me” will work well.

Read Them Once

A lot of people make the mistake of reading an email and not replying instantly. If you read it once; and then come back to reply — you end up reading the email again. Over the course of a week, this ends up being a lot of time wasted re-reading emails. Read it once. Reply on the spot. And move on.

Call Me, Baby!

On average, we write 40 emails a day. Avoid the email Ping-Pong and take time to consider the best medium for the message that you are trying to convey. You can call someone, meet them, text them, leave them a note, send a video message, or even …wait for it … draw them a picture! That might sound like a stretch, but email is impersonal, and when you convey your message through more thoughtful means, it sticks. Not to mention, you will heighten trust levels and find that you will need to email less anyway.

Stop the BCC Madness

CC and BBC wastes a lot of time: 144 out of the 200 emails an office worker receives each day are irrelevant to them. Copying in copious colleagues is often a precautionary measure for bosses to check in on their juniors, and for people to feel show that they are “busy working.” Sit with either your superiors or subordinates and create a new system for checking in with each other. This could be a weekly summary or involve just copying superiors in on the last email on a chain. However, try to make it a more meaningful interaction, like a walking meeting, or a weekly breakfast. If you can heighten trust between your team, email naturally will reduce.

Innovator’s Challenge:

Aim to halve the amount of time you spend on email. Create a reduction plan based on the suggestions above and pilot it for a week. Note down how you feel before and after, especially what felt like it made you more productive. Next, consider what it will take to make this pilot become your new reality and how you might roll it out to your team.

As seen in FORBES