We’re kind of obsessed with email.
And we’re not alone. Most office workers claim they’d like to spend less time on email, and whether the elusive “inbox zero” is possible or not it hasn’t stopped us from trying to figure out a better way to manage the one tool that seems both essential to our work lives while simultaneously being one of the biggest time sucks of our day.
By one recent estimate published in the Washington Post we spent on 28% of our workweeks reading, writing, or responding to email, that equals a whopping 650 hours a year.
This constant email checking is stressing us out, as a researcher at the University of California at Irving found out when she monitored the heart rates of a group of employees while they were checking email and then again after they took a five-day email break (their stress levels drastically dropped):
Without email, the employees reported they felt more in control of their working lives. The social norms attached to email that demand a quick response time is largely what attributed to the rising stress levels.
Since we aren’t likely to cut email out of our lives completely (for now), we’re going to try the next best thing: drastically cutting back on checking our email. Using time-management-guru Laura Vanderkam’s experiment as inspiration, join me and other Fast Company editors as we check our email only twice a day.
You can use whatever method works for you: Some people like Tumblr founder David Karp, and time-management expert Julie Morgenstern, swear by not checking email first thing in the morning, while productivity guru Tim Ferriss argues in the 4-Hour Workweek for checking email only at noon and 4 p.m.
My plan is check in at the beginning and end of the work day and spend that time to read and respond to emails for a concentrated 30 minutes. The rest of the day, my inbox will be closed and I’ll set an auto response to let people know that they’ll have to wait a little while longer for a response. Will that time in between allow me to focus more deeply without the distraction of the growing number of messages? Or will I get twitchy wondering if I’m missing out on potentially important and urgent messages?
Log on to our New Habit Challenge Live Chat on Friday October 31st at 11 a.m. ET to find out and share your thoughts. Or send an email with what you loved or hated about the challenge to firstname.lastname@example.org by end of day Thursday, October 30th.