As we have argued in the past, email is not the problem – we are. And it’s not just the productivity drain or the antisocial effects of constantly checking our phones and computers for new messages.
There are psychological ramifications too. By constantly looking for new information and tasks from other people, we are degrading the importance of the things we want and need to do. This flowchart explains what you’re doing wrong – and how to fix it.
Chances are you’ve got a few tasks you plan to complete during the day, ranging from pieces of a project at the office to folding laundry at home. When you stop what you’re doing to look at your email, you’re putting a priority on what other people want from you. You’re making the tasks in your life less important by constantly checking to find out what everyone else needs. This issue is at the root of why email can kill your productivity when you don’t use it correctly.
As a guide, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton put together this flow chart to help you decide when you should check your email. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a funny way of looking at the problem (with some occasional practical advice for good measure).
When it comes down to the office, however, getting yourself on a 30-minute email cycle is generally a good solution if you’re currently an over-checker. It isn’t too frequent that you’re going to be too distracted from your work and isn’t so infrequent that you’ll miss anything important.