Last Monday I decided to check email only once/day at 1pm for one week.
What I learned from this experiment:
1. I only get about 30 emails/day. And half of that is garbage! So really, maybe 15 emails to respond to every day. I always start by eliminating the trash (facebook notifications, Myspace friend requests, etc). Then I reply to each email, flagging anything that requires a long response for later (I usually get to these on Sundays). I ended up spending 15-30 minutes doing email each day. I spent 2 hours and 15 minutes on email all week.
(email is the little red slice of the pie)
2. Email in the morning is the biggest time waster EVER! Waiting until 1pm every day to open my email showed me how much time I really have in the morning to do more important things. Before this little experiment, I use to wake up sometime between 8 and 10 am, exercise, eat breakfast, and then open my email. I wouldn’t close my email program, though…at all. So the entire time spent at home before going out for a session or a gig would be time that I would check email off and on. That was the big problem. Once it was opened, I allowed myself to be interrupted by anyone at anytime. You know how this goes, right? The result was usually that I wasted the first 2-3 hours of my day being half-engaged with whatever I’m working on. Because I allowed myself to be interrupted, my focus was pretty short. But this past week I felt like I had an extra 4 hours a day.
3. Batching is good for my brain. Think about this…
It takes me an average of 15 -30 minutes to process 30 emails when I do it all at once. So, roughly one minute deciding about and, if necessary, responding to each email.
If, on the other hand, I allow email to interrupt me all day long, those same 30 emails take at least twice as long to process. That’s because it takes a few minutes to switch between tasks.
This week I’m doing email at noon. I’m just going week to week, so I might try 2x/day later on. We’ll see. At this point, I’m really happy with allowing email to only take up a couple hours of my week. The alternative is too painful.
Most importantly, I have my mornings back!
(photo by Ali Eisner)