Seeking Productivity Gains? Stop Doing THIS One Thing


A core fundamental in effective time management is having a plan – an objective – for how you want to spend your time. Then, it is all about execution. We’re willing to bet most of you reading this have plans about how you’ll spend your workday.  But tell us, do you start your day out checking email?  Planned or not, processing email first thing in the day takes you out of the driver’s seat.  It sets you up for executing someone else’s plan.  Setting aside time later in the day to read and respond to emails is an effective way to boost your productivity.  Let us explain.

Fact: Email is a Tremendous Productivity Drain

It is estimated that over 306 billion (yes, with a “b”) emails are sent and received each day worldwide.  Though text, chat and video conferencing have grown in popularity, the email remains a main staple in business communication.  It’s a necessary evil.  And, this necessary evil has to be dealt with.  Studies have shown the average worker, in fact, spends 2.5 hours processing emails a day.

Build Boundaries Around Your Use of Email

It happens.  You sit down to work and open up the email inbox.  You read through the first one and begin down a path of action.  Something to be confirmed. Something to be completed. Summaries to be digested. Requests to be fulfilled.  Junk to be deleted.  Some of it, indeed, is important, but is it what you set out to do as your top priority?  Did you plan for this time going to this email?  Did you want to give away your freshest hours to this draining task?  Truth be told, research shows  the majority of us start down this unproductive path quite early, checking email even before getting out of bed.  Are you guilty?

The Cost of Task-Switching is Real

Back to that average worker. She checks email 15 times per day.  That’s 15 interruptions, and they add up.  It is estimated it takes this average worker 23 minutes to fully recover from a work interruption.  This is referred to as the cost of task switching.  Jumping from a project to simply reading through an email that pops up, costs us valuable productive output.

We recommend scheduling time to process email 2-3 times a day.  Maybe once mid-morning, after you’ve completed your top priorities.  And then about an hour before the end of your workday, which allows time for you to react to any priorities before leaving the office.

Set Expectations with Coworkers

Don’t be afraid to set expectations with your coworkers.  Let those you work closely with know when you process email.  Responding immediately to email, sends the message that you are reachable via email at any given moment.  If you work with individuals in different time zones, or you have a truly pressing situation in play, you may have to do a quick inbox scan to catch correspondence that needs attention.  But, again, save the email processing beyond the urgent or unique, for your designated, scheduled processing time.  Lastly, email processing should have limits if you want to remain productive.  Once your processing time is up, stop. Pick back up during your next scheduled email processing time.

Get in the Driver’s Seat

Starting tonight!  Review your to-do list, which projects or obligations need your greatest attention?  Schedule time to focus on these priorities first thing in the morning.  Remind yourself that you’ve set aside time to process email later in the day, it can wait until then.  We are confident that you will see gains in your productivity and prove to yourself that stopping checking email before you get out of bed was the right decision.


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Sara Genrich & Nancy Kruschke, founders of Productivity Training Academy, came together with the vision of creating practical, results-driven online on-demand courses for time management, productivity and technology training.  With over 50 years of combined productivity experience, Sara and Nancy’s knowledge, skills and talents illuminate valuable paths to business gain, serving as an effective catalyst for positive change.