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Sep 12 2008

Email Productivity Experiment – Update 2

This is the third post in my mini series about email productivity. For those of you who missed the first two I have provided links to them below.
Email Productivity Experiment Email Productivity Experiment - Update 1
Well, I have had a rather busy week this week and not had a great deal of time scheduled for writing. I have however being able to implement a few changes to my email system and track the outcome. It is always great to schedule things like this when you are at your busiest so you can get a real grasp of how effective the changes have been. This week has been a great week for this next test. In the last installment of this series, I tracked over a few days the number of times that I checked email in a normal working day. I was quite shocked to find out that I had checked email 62 times during the working day. Wow, that is a lot of email! Using a distraction penalty of 90 seconds, this works out to just over an hour and a half of wasted productivity due to checking email. So, what I have tried this week is very basic and I have just set the default mail collection time from the default five minutes to one hour. So, instead of Mail.app checking for new email across my 8 email accounts every 5 minutes, it now only checks for new mail once an hour. I was very skeptical if this would work for me as I am rather a heavy email user and my time is always requested from many people within my organization. But, I gave it a try. As I was very busy, and not twiddling my thumbs, the first few hours passed like a dream. I must admit that I even forgot about email and then remembered on the hour when my new mail notification would sound and I would merrily go and check my email. What I found is pretty obvious. Rather than dealing with the odd email every five minutes, and also the annoying ones that bypass the spam filters, I was working in batch. Working in batch really does save you time. I was getting roughly 15 emails every hour. I could skim through these, delete what I did not need, archive ones that required archiving or clipping ones that required more thought into my OmniFocus inbox for processing during one of my processing sessions. So, how did I do. Well, I checked email 23 times during the day. This is a great improvement from 62 times and I did actually feel that it made my day more productive. I have been really busy and focused all week and I must admit that the time between email seemed to fly and I found myself using it as a time marker, often remarking that the last hour had flown by. 62 to 23 is a reduction from 93 minutes to 34.5 minutes of distraction (based upon a 90 second penalty) therefore saving me an hour a day of productive time!. Wow, what a simple way to save an hour a day! Why did I check the email 23 times and not 10? (as I normally work 10 hour days). Well, I did find myself being asked about topics and emails that had been sent at times throughout the day and I just could not resist being the odd one out in the office so I did find myself hitting the Get Mail button to check for new mail in between a few of the hourly regular checks. This is an area where I need to improve and I plan to stop the automatic collection next week as Mail.app will only allow you to set one hour mail collection as the maximum default. I plan to check mail at 0900, 1200, 1500, and 1700. 4 times a day from 62 times. Should be fun! I have had some fantastic comments on the last two posts and I hope you all keep the comments up on this post as I love to read the ideas you are all having about saving time and becoming more productive when dealing with email. Thanks, and have a great weekend!
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  1. John B. Kendrick said on September 13th, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Great article again. After your last article, I’ve been trying and actually sometimes forget to check email on the hour if I’m really busy. Can’t wait for the next post to see your further reduction in time. Thanks, John

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