I have a new email address which is administered via Google’s G-Suite and ignoring the fact that the Gmail interface is terrible and appears to have been designed by a committee of non-UX trained individuals, I’m not sure how productive you can be when your email sits so closely alongside your other online activities.
I’m a firm believer in running your email from a native email application, not just because they have (on the whole) better interfaces, but because you can turn them off and ignore them allowing you to get on with your tasks without the constant reminder of emails popping in to your inbox calling for your attention.
Emails can be intrusive things which disrupt your flow of productivity and, according to research from the Future Work Centre*, can also be a cause of ‘toxic stress’, so why wouldn’t you want to put them away and deal with them on your own terms?
“There might be an important email I need to know about” is often the cry when you tell people to ignore their emails for a period of time, but if it’s that urgent why are people emailing you and not calling you?
It’s only this matter of urgency that makes us think we need to be available on email all the time, not the matter of importance. It can be important and still be dealt with later in the day rather than now, and if it’s urgent then the sender is choosing an approach for their communication that doesn’t match with their desires.
You might have a hundred things you must get through in the course of the week, and it’s your job to protect your own time so that you can get these things done. Part of that is screening yourself from interruptions that will stop you making your way through the hundred things, and a major cause of interruptions is email.
Yes, you may be in a role that is focused on responding to incoming enquiries, but I’d still argue that you can do this by checking emails at regular intervals rather than as and when they come in.
If something comes in that really needs immediate intervention then I’d recommend introducing something that will cause a secondary alert (for example create a rule in your email application that makes a noise on your laptop when the rule is met). This way you’ll know there is something urgent.
Outside of these really urgent emails just set yourself a schedule to check your emails and deal with their contents. It could be once an hour, or it could be once a day, the point is that you start getting back the control over your work day, instead of letting others take control.
If people kept turning up at your desk every couple of minutes and asking you to do things you’d soon get annoyed, and that’s ultimately what emails are. They’re people elsewhere giving you something to do (even if that thing is only reading the email).
Take the first step today to take control of your email and stop it controlling you.