I think that we (“we”==my team, Microsoft, and the Industry) waste way too much time “doing” email, and I am amazed how much we tolerate this waste. I interact with a lot of people of various levels of influence, and in my experience, the “typical employee” has email running constantly and stops what they’re doing to read or reply to email every time new email arrives. Sometimes they have rules to filter out some of their mail, but 80-90% of their mail goes directly to their inbox (aka “distraction center”). I won’t even bring up how news aggregators have contributed to these distractions. Every time we stop to read email, we are distracted from our “real work”. “Switching gears” takes time, and will slow your productivity to a crawl. If you think your job is to read email, you should think again. It drives me crazy to see how much time is spent dealing with email ineffectively.
Not only do we monitor our email constantly, but we expect others to do the same. We send email, and get impatient if we don’t get a response right away. An extreme, but absolutely true example of this is that at one time, I worked with someone who would send email, then walk down the hall to where the recipient sat and ask them “did you get my email? Do you have a response?”
Here’s a call to action. Close your email client. Wait – don’t close it. First set up a rule that routes everything where your name isn’t on the ‘to’ or ‘cc’ line to a secondary folder. Set up exceptions for any distribution lists where you need to reply in a somewhat timely manner. Now close your email client. Resolve yourself to opening email 2-3 times per day, and dealing with issues addressed to you. If you must keep email running, do it, but turn off notifications, and only deal with items not sent directly to you once or (at most) twice a day. I guarantee that if you are “typical”, this will seem outrageous, but I also guarantee that this will make a significant positive impact on your productivity.
Now tasting: Last night I had a 2002 Malbec from Chateau Ste Michelle.