We’re too connected. Many of us have laptops and internet-equipped cell phones so that we’re always able to stay in touch. We like to think this makes us more productive, but I’m beginning to realize that’s a myth. Checking your email every minute of the day doesn’t make you more productive; in fact, it robs you of your productivity. This obsession with making sure you get email the second it hits your inbox can become a major distraction that prevents you from getting work done.
Look, I admit it. I’m one of those people who has my Gmail open the entire time I’m working. I’m always looking at the tab to make sure a new message hasn’t arrived. And if a new message does pop up in my inbox, I’ll stop to see what it is. If it’s not spam, I’ll take the time to read it and respond if necessary. Of course, I receive emails all day long, both personal and for work, so this really does take up quite a bit of time.
But loss of productivity isn’t the only negative effect of checking email too often. Honestly, being plugged in 24/7 starts to get a little stressful after a while. It’s like you never get a break from it. I mean, it was only about a year ago that I didn’t have a phone with internet connectivity, but now that I have my iPhone, I suddenly feel like I have an obligation to constantly stay in the conversation. I’m sure I’m not alone, and I think that if left unchecked, this could lead to burnout.
What’s the solution? Here are some ideas I’ve come up with.
- Separate personal and work emails—I use my Gmail account both for work and personal email use. I think this eats up a lot of unnecessary time during my work day as I’m reading non-work related emails. I should separate the two so that I’m focused on business tasks during the day. This alone could help to make me more productive.
- Check your email on a schedule—I know the internet has made us an impatient bunch, but is it really necessary to respond to emails the second they’re sent? For some companies, it might be, but in most situations, the sender can wait 30 minutes to an hour before receiving a response. Set a schedule for checking your email. You can check it every half hour or every hour. This frees up the rest of the time for you to focus on other work.
- Have a cutoff time—As a freelancer, the lines between my work and personal life often get blurred. I mean, I work from home, so it’s hard to know when to call it a day so I can relax and hang out with the family. That’s why I’m going to setup a cutoff time for my internet and email use. After this time in the evening, I’ll turn off the computer and try my best to forget about work.
- Take a technology cleanse occasionally—A friend of mine recently took a tech cleanse for a weekend. He left his computer, cell phone, and other gadgets at home while he went camping for a few days. It was a way just to get away from it all for a little while so he could relax and recharge his batteries. I think this is a great idea, and it’s something most of us could benefit from.
How often do you check your email?