Shutting off the Email

People can wait.  The beep of the email arrival doesn’t mean that every message deserves equal, critical attention the moment it hits the in-box.

For years, I tried to answer emails as they came in.  The ding in the in-box was like the proverbial snap of the finger—read me now!  Give me your attention! This certainly did not allow me to focus on what I was working on. Then I realized that people began expecting immediate answers, day and night.

Over the past couple years,  I made a conscious effort to not answer emails right away.  More recently, I have taken the more drastic step of completely shutting down email for an hour or two each day, allowing me to focus on the project in front of me.   Sometimes I do this a couple times a day, and I have found that my productivity has increased dramatically, my work quality has improved, I am less stressed about the in-box to-do list, and not one person has complained about me responding to an email in a few hours rather than a few minutes.

I have the freedom of mainly working from home, juggling several clients.  With a lack of face-to-face meetings, I think it was easy to get into long-term email conversations.  But our in-boxes have been overloaded.  People cover-their-asses by copying everyone on group emails, then replying to everyone, and so on and so on, exacerbating the email glut.

So I am not only emailing less, I am using the phone more.  It is so easy to misconstrue ideas in an email. Talking through a large project, timelines, or  resolving a problem can oftentimes be resolved quicker in a call than 57 emails, with less room for disconnect between the parties involved.

Email is still a great tool I use through the workday.  But it can distract, overload, confuse.  And it doesn’t take place of the human voice, the handshake, the conversation, the doodles that can help provide a solution, inspire our creativity, keep us on task with goals, and simply add back the human element back into our workdays.  C

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One thought on “Shutting off the Email

  1. Maman Main

    Agree wholeheartedly! Heard a fascinating discussion yesterday on Q (maybe Cue) on NPR about just this. The head of TEDX was the guest and he has an email referendum about this. Fewer emails, not responding to every email with a ‘Thanks’ or ‘I got it.’ And there was also a GREAT piece in the NYT Sunday Review on April 22, ‘The Flight from Conversation’ that was spot on.

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