Many of us feel stressed due to the seemingly endless amount of emails that keep pouring into our inboxes.
Researchers at the University of California, MIT and Microsoft recently conducted a study on how our way of dealing with the inflow of email affects our stress level and how productive we perceive ourselves to be.
This is supposedly the first study measuring the test subjects’ physical stress levels and how they use their computers, that also asked them to report on how efficient and productive they perceive themselves to be throughout their workday.
You decide when
The researchers found that those of us who receive great quantities of emails become less stressed if we read (and process) our email in batches (referred to as ‘batching’) a few times during the day instead of checking and dealing with emails continuously throughout the day as they arrive in our inbox. It reduces our stress level and makes us feel more productive if we get to decide for ourselves when to check for emails, as opposed to when we let the email program and its notifications tell us when to deal with the recently received messages.
So, if you usually read emails as soon as you receive them, and have yet to turn off notifications regarding new messages, this would be an excellent time to refine your structure and emailing by doing just that.
1. Turn off the notifications and other signals which indicate that ‘you’ve got mail’, so that it is you, and only you, who decides when you will attend to new emails – not the email client.
2. Choose an appropriate interval at which you open the inbox and check for new messages. There are those who choose to have a look once an hour, some not that often and others more frequently.
3. When you do process the new emails,
- Throw away the obvious trash.
- Answer those that only take a minute or two to respond to immediately.
- Create to-do-tasks for all the emails that will take longer to respond to, or for which you need to do something before responding.
4. Take care of as many emails as you can during the time you have set aside for processing correspondence every time you open the inbox.
Less stress, more productivity
Judging by what the researchers found, you will feel less stressed if you process emails in batches and only open the inbox when you actively choose to. You will have longer stretches of time without interruptions during which you can do other things than reading (and responding to) emails, and if you are anything like the participants in the study, taking control of your relationship to emails will make you feel more productive as well.
About the author
David Stiernholm is a trainer who teaches thousands of people every year in companies, government authorities, organizations and universities how to become more structured and attain a higher degree of personal efficiency.
He is also the author of Super Structured.
“Information overload”, “too much going on”, “full email inbox”, “too much on your plate”, “heavy workload”, “ASAP”, “piles that keep growing”, it has to get better soon… Yes, there are many ways to describe the chaotic life many of us lead at work. But, if we create a better structure at work, we will have more time for what matters most to us and to our business. Super Structured is based on a highly successful training program and is for anyone who wants to create a workday that runs smoother and with greater ease. In short chapters with useful advice and tips.