Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mountains of Email

Brad Schow sent out the following thoughts and research on email last week. While I initially found it a little funny, the more I think about it the more I realize that in my case, I am losing my ability to focus because of the pda and phone. I allow things to distract me continually throughout the day. And that has to have an impact on my real productivity and ability to be effective. The key is finding the right balance. I am not one who believes we should cry uncle and just pretent our inbox doesn't have any email in it. People send email because they want to know something. And often my answer is important for them to be able to proceed with the task at hand. So ignoring is not balance. Neither is setting it up so it dings, pops up, vibrates or somehow grabs my attention every time one hits. Somewhere in the middle is where I need to land. Here is the research Brad shared:

In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, though, did worse than the intoxicated people by an average of 6 points. The e-mailing group came in last.

What does that make you think of this statistic? In a recent survey of 320 professionals, 17% reported they check e-mail a few times per hour and 68% check e-mail more or less continually. They are constantly breaking their focus on the primary task at hand.

Something to consider. Some days I probably have a pretty low IQ as I chase the electronic messages moment by moment. I would love to hear how you are finding balance in your communications. It certainly is a challenge we all need to address.


theritzman said...

I am the anti-tech guy. I am the multi tasker who greatly respects any tech who can focus for 8 hours to resolve a problem. I also think multi-tasking is a gift & a strength.

That being said, I recognize the distraction of e-mail and voice mail.

I've taken two actions:
1.] Route non-essential e-mail into folders so they don't hit my inbox.
2.] I frequently go "offline" in Outlook. I am not distracted and can focus on productive work.

Yesterday at 6:00 PM I realized that I was "offline", went "online" & hauled in 32 e-mails. Frankly, I was shocked, shut down and drove home to deal with them.


MikeG said...

If you're getting your email on a Windows Mobile phone, I've found a handy little utility for it called Watchflag (www.watchflag.com). You can trial it for 2 weeks to see how you like it. You can setup different alerts for different emails based on sender, text in subjects, contents of email. It also checks in subfolders as well so if that's how you organize your Outlook it'll still work.

It's how I keep my mobile email from driving me nuts with constant alerts, you can tell it to ignore certain automated messages based on different criteria. Just thought it might help you out!