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How Many Times A Day Should You Check Your Email?

How Many Times A Day Should You Check Your Email?

    In my last post, I talked about six of the most common work habits that sabotage your productivity. The first offender on my list was how frequently you check your email. As I was writing my last article, I found that there was a ton of information on that topic, and it was really deserving of its own dedicated article.

    When it comes to our work email, most of us see it as a ball and chain. We’ve constantly got to be checking it, or risk the wrath of the bosses and co-workers that are trying to communicate with us. If we don’t respond to an email within 5 minutes, we’re seen as lazy or unproductive.

    But according to some experts, checking your email too frequently is actually a major factor that can contribute to diminished productivity. If you are one of those “every time my phone dings I must check my email immediately” sort of people, read on to discover why you may have become your own worst enemy.

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    How Often is Normal?

    So just how often does the average person check their email in a given day? It’s hard to track down reliable statistics. According to one poll, about 40% of people surveyed that they thought they checked their email between 6 and 20 times per day. Of course, it’s hard to say how accurate a person is when gauging their own email habits.

    Another survey says that 56.4% of people only check their email between 0-5 times per day. However, that study is from 2009, and arguably quite dated.

    “Never Check Your Email in the Morning”

    Oprah’s favorite organizational expert is a woman called Julie Morgenstern, author of “Never Check Email in the Morning.” Guess what she advises?

    According to Morgenstern, checking your email first thing when you get into the office each morning is problematic because it can a false sense of accomplishment. You answer 40 emails, and you feel like you’ve done a lot of work, but in reality you probably still have piles of paperwork, meetings, and phone calls to make. Answering email is essential to doing your work, but it isn’t always something that is actively making money for you or your company.

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    Productivity expert Sid Savara also agrees with Morgenstern. “When it comes to email, ignorance is bliss.  That’s why if you’ve got something important you want to make progress on, I have these four words for you: Don’t check your email. As soon as you get up, work on something important for 30-45 minutes, and only then check it. If you can stand it, wait even longer.  Some days I don’t check email at all until after lunch…Any new information you get can cause you to get distracted. I can’t control everything, but I can control my own self made distractions.”

    The 24-Hour Method

    Other people argue that rather than check your emails starting later in the day, you should just check them once per day, in the morning. Among the members of this camp is productivity expert Elizabeth Grace Saunders. She generally clears out her inbox during the first 1-2 hours of her day, and formulates her game plan for the rest of the day after that. After that, she doesn’t generally look at her email again for the rest of the day, allowing her to focus completely on business development and client projects.

    This is harder, of course, if you are at the bottom of the food chain at your company. But if you are in upper management or you are self-employed, setting this routine can be a great way to boost your productivity.

    When in Doubt, Check the Chart

    Scott Scheper checks his email twice a day, and has created a handy flow chart for helping you to blow through all the unread messages in your inbox.

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    Every time you open a new email, ask yourself 3 basic questions:
    1. Is this relevant?
    2. Can I solve this?
    3. Will it take less than 2 minutes of my time to deal with this?

    By following his handy flow chart, you’ll develop a new way to bust through your inbox more efficiently.

    5 A Day

    And just in case you hadn’t had enough conflicting expert opinions, here’s one more. Rod Kurtz of Business Week argues that you ought to be checking your work email five times per day.

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    “Check your inbox only five times daily–first thing in the morning, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, and end of day. Or even less if you are capable. This works when you turn off the automatic send/receive function, allowing you up to two hours to focus on your work, rather than to be continually interrupted. It works when you group the sorting of your e-mail, making you more productive and efficient in dealing with it.”

    Conclusion

    There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. Make sure that you schedule your email time in such a way that you avoid confusing the two. If you approach your email with the correct attitude, you can boost your productivity by leaps and bounds.

    In the words of Scott Scheper, “A day filled with shooting the breeze with employees, answering questions, staring at emails, checking social networks and chatting with colleagues won’t make you rich. It’ll make you busy.”

    What’s your daily email routine? Do you plan to try any of these tips? Let us know in the comments below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on March 23, 2021

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

    The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

    You need more than time management. You need energy management

    1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

    How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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    I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

    I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

    2. Determine your “peak hours”

    Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

    Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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    My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

    In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

    Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

    3. Block those high-energy hours

    Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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    Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

    If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

    That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

    There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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    Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

    Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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