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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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    Last Updated on December 17, 2018

    Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

    Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

    We live in a time of productivity overload.

    Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.

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    This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!

      Is this you?

      Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively

      When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.

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      Take a deep breath/change your body posture

      When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?

      Focus on right now

      Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.

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      Take Action

      Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.

      Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)

      Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.

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      yoga-422196_1280
        Relax and enjoy the moment

        Stop feeling guilty

        Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.

        Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!

        Featured photo credit: Stress Therapy via flickr.com

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