4 Ways Email is Killing Your Productivity

As anyone who’s ever spent an afternoon clearing out a clogged inbox knows, emails are a nightmare.

Whether it’s the thousandth too-good-to-be-true offer of a stake in an African gold mine or the Taylor Swift fan newsletter that should really wait until your lunch break, emails have a way of creeping into your day and sabotaging your to-do list.

Here are the four biggest ways that we think email is killing your productivity.

1.  It stops you switching off

It’s always there, in the corner of your eye, beeping or buzzing or bouncing up and down for attention: the little icon in the corner that tells you a message has arrived.

Email is like the needy kitten that won’t let you ignore it and get on with your work, minus the cuteness factor and Instagram potential.

What’s more, it’s almost impossible to make sure that the distractions are even worth your time. Whether it’s an all-important project update or unwanted spam, email taps you on the shoulder all the same.

2.   It slows you down

In a world that’s moving towards instant, hassle-free communication, email has some serious catching up to do.

Signing in, opening each separate email, trawling through the junk to find the important stuff, replying to each in turn, forwarding entire conversations… it’s all so slow. Add to that the frustration of replying to someone’s latest correspondence only to find that they had sent a new one while you were busy crafting your epic and you start to wonder why you bothered at all.

These days, the best tools allow you to set up project groups and add new people later, giving them access to the entire conversation. This means that you know as soon as the notification beeps that it’s directly relevant to you.

Plus, switching to a system that is chat-based rather than email-based means that you can fire off a reply as fast as you like, without worrying about whether it’s formal enough or who’s been cc’d.

Just as Mark Zuckerberg stays productive by wearing the same T-shirt every day to stave off “decision fatigue”, knowing that you can respond fast without frills stops you from investing unnecessary mental energy in straightforward communication – and helps you stay focused on the important task of getting the job done.

In a world that’s moving towards instant, hassle-free communication, email has some serious catching up to do.

3.    It traps you in

You can’t stop people from cc’ing you in to endless email exchanges, even if you’re operating on a definitely-don’t-need-to-know basis.

Getting dragged into every bureaucratic decision is one of the most effective ways to make sure that you get absolutely nothing done that you planned to do for the rest of the day.

To make things worse, emails tend to invite unnecessarily long messages, meaning you have to wade through tons of information before you’re even sure it’s relevant to you!

4.   It puts you on someone else’s schedule

People often think that being a freelancer means having no boss. It doesn’t.

As the freelance writer Michael J. Solender puts it:

“Are you crazy? I have 17 bosses and am trying to find more every day!”
— Michael J. Solender

This means that despite the “free” in “freelance”, you will inevitably find yourself bound to someone else’s timescales.

But while you might be happy to take an interruption for a valued client, the constant buzzing of incoming mail means stopping work for every unimportant or unnecessary message, too.

One way to tackle the problem is to allocate set times during the day for checking your emails and force yourself to ignore them outside of these slots.

While this can make you more productive, for most freelancers, it can also mean missed opportunities and angry customers.

Instead of looking for ways to block out all communication, we think it’s best to ensure you’re available to the team members that need you urgently – but you’re shielded from all the other noise.

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