I finished nothing at work today. Oh, I did a whole lot. I just never finished anything. Here’s my half-finished list:
- Opened but didn’t send a calendar invitation for Thursday. The odds are, I’ll completely forget to send it before I leave today and then struggle to find open times on six people’s calendars on Wednesday afternoon.
- Tried to finish my 2013 social media report for my boss. It’s January 27. I’ve been trying to finish it for 26 days and am still stuck on “LinkedIn engagement was … “
- Texted my husband to make sure my daughter has her field trip permission form, but never actually hit send. Should be a fun conversation when I get home!
- Started to write the blog that was due today, but….
Just kidding. I managed to finish the blog.
Why am I half-finishing everything today? Email distractions. In today’s constantly connected world, 999,999-out-of-1-million workers suffer from email-itis (completely unscientific, made-up numbers and fictitious work-related disease). So, at lunch today, I dipped into my arsenal of tips, hoping these five productivity tips and email fixes would help me—and you— put some checkmarks on my to-do list today.
1. Turn on automatic out of office replies—telling people that I’m in the office.
I emailed a guy from the UK last week and received the best response I’ve ever had. So naturally, I stole his productivity tips for myself:
In order to maximize productivity, I check my emails a maximum of twice a day. You might be surprised to learn that there is real science behind these productivity tips:
· Psychologists at the University of California found that not only are we less effective when we are interrupted but that we get interrupted on average every 3 minutes, causing us to lose up to 2 hours of our day.
Based on these reasons, please understand if I don’t get back to you immediately, but I will respond as soon as I check in later.
2. Work offline.
Most email programs, such as the ever-popular Microsoft Outlook, give you the option to “work offline,” meaning that you have access to your email files, but don’t receive new messages. This is perfect for when you have 6,576 items in your inbox (guilty as charged!) and need to do some serious clean-up.
3. Completely exit the email program. No, really, actually do it.
Those little alerts that we get—whether it’s a ping on your smartphone or the mail symbol on your laptop’s toolbar—are huge distractions. Completely exit your email program and completely turn off your smartphone if the “work offline” option isn’t an option.
4. Set up a few rules.
If completely turning off your email gives you a work coronary, set up a few rules or filters so you only receive alerts from VIPs, such as your boss or client. For Outlook users, click here to learn how. For Gmail users, click here.
5. Get less email.
I know this might seem a bit obvious, but stop playing the ignore game with bulk email services, newsletters or junk. Schedule some time to go through and unsubscribe to lists in the afflicted email account. Create an alternate email account specifically for newsletters and RSS feeds. And take ongoing conversations (AKA, reply all hades) out of email and into a project management or internal community tool.
Please, please, please share your productivity tips and email fixes with us here. Your donation of one sentence could save a life.