“How often should I check my email?” you ask… great question. It’s not as simple as 3 times a day or once every other hour. In fact, a lot of it depends on you, but there are still limits on that.
Let me put it this way:
You know you have a new email coming in soon, but you don’t know when it’ll arrive. You go to your app and hit refresh… nothing. Five minutes later you can’t help but check again… and again, nothing. An hour later you’ve checked your email nearly a dozen times… still nothing.
While it didn’t take long for you to check your inbox, over time those few seconds add up to minutes, and then hours. But it’s not just the amount of time that’s being wasted. It’s also the fact that you keep interrupting your workflow to check if there’s a new email.
Constantly breaking your focus yields subpar results. When you’re able to focus on one thing at a time and give it 100% of your attention, you’re able to think more critically, go deeper into concepts, and ensure you’re not glossing over important details.
When you break away from your task 10 times in an hour, you have drastically affected a state of deep flow. Without flow, it is impossible to make impact on the major projects that you need to accomplish. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not gifting yourself your full attention on a specific task, and you are also contributing to your stress and anxiety. It also means you have a higher chance of making mistakes because your attention is fractured, so you miss subtleties.
Imagine you’re proofreading a document. After two paragraphs you check your email, read something new, and decide to go back to it later. You return to the document and read two more paragraphs. You make a couple edits, but then go back to your email yet again. You return to the document and continue on. You repeat this process until finally reaching the end of the document. You look at the time and realize it not only took you an hour to read through just a few pages, but when you do your final scan, you realize your edits are in an inconsistent voice, or you’ve missed a couple grammatical errors, or you weren’t consistent in the style.
You weren’t staying on one topic at a time. You kept reverting to your email. You were influenced by the style and tone of the emails in your inbox. You’re exhausted from putting too much mental energy into too many things at once. There are myriad factors that could influence why this is the case… but what it really boils down to is this: you weren’t staying on task.
When you constantly pull yourself away from what you’re doing it’s hard to stay in a consistent mindset and think through processes. It’s almost like jumping into a chilly pool. If you stay in long enough, your body will eventually adjust to the temperature, and you won’t feel cold anymore. But if you constantly get out, warm up, and then go back in, you’ll feel that same chilly feeling over and over.
So what does this mean for email? It means you have to know yourself. If you know that you have a report that’ll take an hour or two to get done, don’t let yourself get distracted checking email (or social media or something else). Of course, take breaks if and when needed, but don’t get caught up in mutlitasking and constantly adjusting to different temperatures. Take a breather – stretch, grab a drink, take a short walk – but then get back on track with what you were working on prior to the break. Checking email is not a break; it is a distraction.
By training yourself to stay focused on the task at hand, you’ll find that your productivity skyrockets, and your work is more thorough. In fact, make it a game, and define checking your email as almost a treat for completing the task. As you already know, your emails will still be there for you when you’re done. They’re not going anywhere.
If you want to know a surefire process, a plan for tackling your email in a way that increases your productivity and adds more free time to your day, be sure to check out my free 45-minute webinar. This webinar will help you learn how to feel in control of your inbox, be more responsive to important collaborators, and reduce your anxiety and stress.
Just sign up for your favorite day, and I’ll see you then!