For the past year, I have been doing research with some of my colleagues on productivity strategies. A group of us formed a PLC, and we are continuing our work this year. One of our primary goals in this PLC is to think about not only what we are doing to boost personal productivity but, very importantly, the message we are sending students and how we are helping them manage work and stay organized. Research very clearly shows how unproductive it is to be on 24/7, how distracting our notifications are, and the cost of always responding to messages immediately.
The most consistent message that we’ve gathered in our research about productivity is that checking email constantly is costing us big time. Now, I am on my email all the time – from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep. Between every task, I check my inbox again. I like to respond to people right away. I like a clean inbox. I like to go to sleep having taken action on everything in my inbox (that means replying, archiving, or deferring to another day).
So I am trying an experiment this week. Which I am super nervous about. But also very excited to try.
One Week Challenge: October 10 – October 17
My goal: to check email 5 times a day, at set times.
My setup: I will be using Boomerang’s Pause feature to automatically schedule when I can check for new email.
Handling Emergencies: With the support of my principal and other key colleagues, I have told all the teachers I work with in my technology coordinator role about my challenge. I have asked them to help me in the following way — if they have a question requiring a timely response, I asked that they email me using ASAP in the subject line (example: ASAP – Haiku help). In my Boomerang Pause setup, I was able to choose ‘delivery exceptions’ which will be delivered despite my paused inbox status. So emails including the words ASAP or urgent will be immediately delivered. As well, I used the ‘from address:’ exception field to ensure that emails from my principal or assistant principals will come through immediately.
In a future post, I’ll talk about how I maintain my Inbox Zero. I’ve been using this method for years now, and it works well for me. I definitely rely on some apps to accomplish this, which I can also touch on later. I will also talk about how I’ve created Gmail filters to better manage the flow of emails that come in on a daily basis.
Some of the research:
- A study by the Danwood Group found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover from an email interruption (regardless of the email’s importance) and return to work at the same work rate as before the interruption.
- The average person spends 28% of the workweek reading and responding to email
- The McKinsey Global Institute found that an average employee spends 13 hours a week reading and responding to email. That’s by far the most time-consuming work activity at 28% of our work time.
- This equates to 650 hours a year spent on completely reactive, low-value work.
- A team of researchers at UC Irvine found that limiting email access dramatically reduces stress levels.
- A University of London experiment found we lose as many as 10 IQ points when we allow our work to be interrupted by distractions like emails and text messages.
- Switching off an “Always on” Culture, Leslie Perlow