You've got Mail
There are generally two types of people in this world.
The organised, or disorganised; the creative or analytical; the leaders or followers, and the big one:
Those that clear their inbox and file everything away meticulously and those that let their inbox flash up that you have 1005 unread messages.
Why one are you?
I used to the former. I was a slave to my email account. Notifications constantly jumped up in the corner of my laptop, teasing me to open the message and read it - spam or no spam, urgent or even less urgent. It didn't matter how busy I was or right in the middle of the most complex of tax returns. I just had to open the email, you know, just in case it was life or death.
Admittedly, if it was *URGENT*, life or death, or the Tax Man was banging on a clients door demanding all sorts the client usually picked up the phone and would not rely solely on electronic mail.
And nine times out of ten, it was never that important. It never usually is. But we are enticed by that small flashing "You've got mail" symbol.
Hardly as exciting as Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks 1998 electronic love affair.
I then discovered that my staff were doing the same. They were being distracted in the same way as me and constantly stopping and starting work to tend to a request for a bank authority or copy of their accounts; what was their VAT number or could we send across their P60? Hardly life or death, right?
And the evidence was clear. Staff productivity went down as they were constantly stopping and starting work.
The average person checks their email 15 times a day! That is every 28 minutes on an average work day, 11 hours a week week checking and reading emails and they are sending around 124 emails per day! How many are even necessary? Probably a third.
Research by the University of Columbia found that by limiting your email checking to just 3 times a day dramatically reduced stress levels. No wonder!
I was definitely a slave to my email as were my staff - so by quickly getting all my team to turn off email notifications and telling them to only check emails 4 times a day, I started to see productivity rise. And when you are all in an open plan office, when did we lose the art of face to face conversation?
A lot can get lost in translation as well so a face to face can get a far better reaction and can be dealt with quickly without a backlash of "he said, she said".
The perfect example was yesterday. I was sat in the hospital waiting room waiting to see my specialist about getting surgery on my foot. I was distracted and worried about what he might say. I didn't know what was wrong with me either and had been having serious problems since breaking my toe 12 months previously. So much so that on a recent girly weekend in London I ended up in tears and shouting at my dear friend Zara in the middle of Notting Hill as I couldn't walk any further. Hardly her fault, but it just highlights the pain I was in. It was important I got this appointment to figure out what we were going to do or if amputation was my last chance saloon!
With a few minutes to spare I decided to check my emails. In hindsight, a stupid decision. I should have stuck to reading the latest on Brexit in the Scotsman! Flashing away in my inbox, an email from a difficult client who had been causing issues with my team. I got sidetracked and by the time I went into see my specialist my mind was elsewhere and not focused on the job in hand. Whilst he discussed surgery options all i could think about was getting back to my emails and dealing with the "problem client" in hand.
So why do we open our emails when we need to be 100% focused on another task in hand? We would all be so much better limiting our time each day and if we have a huge presentation, meeting or project give it our full attention. After all the email will be there once we are done!
I have learned to be less of a slave to the email and have genuinely switched off the notifications trying only to check my emails at certain times of the day.
Apart from yesterdays slip up, I am less stressed, I am more focused on the task in hand and do not feel like I am going to have a panic attack because my inbox has over 1800 emails in it. Many are spam and from a list I subscribed to years ago, I can use the search function to find emails from my staff and clients so I still don't miss any. i cant remember the moment that I decided to stop wasting time checking my email constantly or filing or deleting them. If one looks like spam, I just leave it, marked "unread"
Maybe it's a age thing, maybe I have realised that life is too short to spend hours trawling through my inbox and calmly filing every email once its been dealt with?
And what is the worst that could happen? If it really is life or death pick up the phone, as you know it is good to talk.