Stop email and talk to people instead

Don’t you just hate it when you are in the midst of something and “bing bong” someone dares to send you an email..? Another interruption..! But you just “have to” see what it was, don’t you? In fact, we check our email inbox an average of 37 times an hour. That’s more than once every 30 seconds. But fret not, you are faster at checking emails than Usain Bolt. Typically you spend only six seconds on each email; Usain is only three quarters of the way down the track by the time you have finished an email.

Do Not Disturb Email hits your productivity. If you don’t manage your email, you are less able to work effectively. Research consistently shows that email is one of the biggest hits on your time and on your ability to concentrate on the work you need to do. Back in May this year I wrote about the need to switch off email and to get an empty inbox.

However, the study published earlier this year confirming that the break in continuity of work due to email can affect your productivity might make you think that it is interruption which is the problem. But now a new study shows that it is not interruption itself, but the kind of disturbance.

In this research, instead of being interrupted by email, individuals were interrupted by other people. The participants in the study were given a memory task to completed – some were given privacy to complete the task, so they were uninterrupted. Others were constantly interrupted. It transpires that the ones who were interrupted the most were the best at completing the task.

It seems that when we work in privacy and when we take breaks for quiet time we are less able to actually perform well. It appears that interruptions from people boosts our ability to get on with the job.

This all suggests that we are so supremely social that we need social stimulus to keep us going. So, when it comes to the office being interrupted by emails will make you less productive than being interrupted by your work colleagues. Rather then getting people to send you an internal email you’ll do better at your job if you ask them to come over to your desk and talk to you.

There are also additional benefits in taking this kind of approach. Not only does it boost the ability to get on with the job, it also helps staff feel happier because they are now in much more real, face-to-face contact with each other. Plus there are health benefits of the increased wandering around the office, perhaps leading to fewer days off sick.

If you want to boost your personal and business productivity, the best thing you can do is to start managing your email, switching it off for most of the day and getting up and about and speaking with people directly.

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