When was the last time you checked email? An hour, two – or a couple of minutes ago? According to statistics from Business Insider, more than a third of Americans regularly check email throughout the day. According to an AOL survey, 47% of respondents admitted that they feel the need to check mail constantly, 25% cannot do without it for more than three days, 60% check mail on vacation, and 59% even in the toilet.
According to a massive study by McKinsey on average, employees are distracted from work every 10 minutes (this is 56 times a day). It takes about 25 minutes to concentrate on the task again fully. Thus, on average, about 2 hours spent on the recovery of concentration accumulates in a day. And regular mail checking is one of the main distractions. During the study, work in the office, scientists found that 70% of e-mails recipients responded within six seconds after receiving, and 85% within 2 minutes. After checking the mail, they needed 64 seconds to get together and return to the working mode. According to the McKinsey Global Institute analysis:
- On average, 28% of work time is spent on email.
- We check email on average 11 times per hour.
- 84% keep email open in the background while working.
- 64% use notifications to learn about new letters.
- 70% of all received letters open within the first six seconds after receipt.
How to Leverage the Influence of Email in our Working Lives?
Considering that e-mail is used everywhere, you must pay for it. As researcher Gloria Mark found out, the more time we spend working with e-mail on a particular day, the lower our performance and the more susceptible to stress. The e-mail also greatly contributes to a sense of cognitive overload. According to this research, several factors are responsible for this, including:
- Lack of clarity in email requests;
- Tasks set in the letter;
- Bad email management strategies;
- Feeling of loss of control;
- Email tracking issues;
- The need to be interrupted due to email;
- Social pressure – waiting for a quick response (especially when the sender is higher in the organizational hierarchy).
Moreover, according to Gloria’s founding, “e-mail usually imposes more costs on the recipient than on the sender.” We can significantly reduce the stress arising from an e-mail by organizing work with it more effectively and purposefully. You can work with e-mail, by and large, in three ways:
- Check mail every time we receive a new notification.
- Check mail only when we decide, without the help of external notifications (simultaneous work with several e-mails in this way is called “batch”).
- Use a combination of both methods.
Which Method is Most Effective?
To find out, Gloria and her team of researchers put heart rate monitors on 40 Microsoft employees and installed a program to record email activity on a computer. Every evening, participants reported on their daily performance. The researchers examined the heart rate variability of each participant – “a well-confirmed indicator of mental stress, which is widely used in scientific and clinical research.”
After collecting this data, the team examined the levels of stress and productivity of employees along with their email management strategy. They found that 30.8% of employees checked email within a day after receiving notifications, 41% sent an email and checked new messages of their choice, and 28.2% followed a mixed strategy. Some of their discoveries are very interesting:
- A “package” strategy does not make employees more productive.
- Those who used the “packet” strategy were just as stressed as those who checked messages during the day.
- The more time participants spent on e-mail, the lower they estimated their productivity.
- The more time people spent on email, the higher the stress level.
Several other interesting findings: the participants spent 1.5 hours a day by email. They checked new messages 77 times a day. The more independent the work of employees was, the less often they checked new messages. These results, especially those related to “package” strategy, are very serious, and researchers agree: “Many statements in popular media indicate that a “package” strategy for working with e-mail should contribute to higher productivity and lower levels of stress. Our research supports this claim to some extent in terms of performance, but only with high email usage. ” Here are some conclusions to draw:
- It does not matter how you prefer to check email. In any case, please note that each viewing of the letter affects performance. On average, opening a new letter takes 64 seconds.
- If you are going to use a “packet” strategy, do not check your mail too often. Although this study claims that the “batch” approach does not work if checking mail frequently during the day, I still believe that batch processing is a powerful strategy when it is used infrequently. For example, I check new messages only once a day, and it is noticeable that this way I spend much less time and attention on email. The study confirms this: checking email once a day may not reduce stress, but it saves a significant amount of time.
- Do not listen only to “experts.” It is important to remember that the personal performance of each individual is individual: what works for one person may not work for you – people are organized differently, and their work, too. As with any performance advice: try something, keep doing what works and discard the rest.
- Working with e-mail is an important part of intellectual work, but by checking it less often and managing it more consciously, we can become less stressful and save valuable time and attention for much more important things.
How to Separate “Work” Emails From “Garbage” When Filling out Timesheets?
Is it bad to check the mail? No. Electronic correspondence is a very important part of the direct official duties of any employee. According to the survey, mentioned above, 59% of respondents reported that their teams decided to store information about projects in emails, and 13% said that they even had project status only tracked by email. Mail is an essential work tool.
But the question whether the time is spent on checking email for project status, or spam-kitten-video sent to you by your girlfriend stands. To diversify the time entries manually, you need a timer and a conscious. Or a smart time-tracking app, that somehow will see the difference. And you know what? Today’s technology has one of those! PPM Express Time is a unique time-tracking tool, that is able not only to ease your bosses mind, on whether you spend your time watching kittens on companies’ dime but help you “reverse engineer” your working day with unbelievable accuracy.
First thing first, how does the app knows, what were you doing? No, the big brother isn’t watching you. The app aggregates the data from all the working tools you’ve “attached” to it, starting with your mailing agent, for example, Microsoft Outlook. (It is most common corporate mailing choice in the US. By the last four years’ worth of statistics is 49,541 companies. The companies using Microsoft Outlook are most often found in the Computer Software industry. And with 50-200 employees and 1M-10M dollars in revenue.)
How does it work? Let’s assume you have not just a notepad to create your time-reports, but a couple of project management apps at your disposal. You’ve got Jira tasks, Planner Plans, Trello tasks and calls in Skype and meetings in your corporate calendar. PPM Express Time “talks” to your other apps and creates entries for every piece of work done. Every day. It aggregates data in an easy to use form. You check the entries and can edit, delete or add to them whenever you feel like it, or find it necessary. Therefore, you don’t have to succumb to a manual input, memorizing or “guesstimating” your working hours anymore. Time tracking becomes easier to create, as you don’t have to go to each app to check out, what tasks have you had today, or the day before. And the time reports become more accurate.