The Biggest Obstacle To Productivity

One of my first dates in high school was to see the romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan use email to find love. Back then receiving an email was a big deal, and we all longed to hear the AOL catchphrase “You’ve got mail!”

Times have changed. According to a recent study, more than 90 percent of workers become more stressed when using email. I have to admit I am one of them!

With the invention of smart-phones, we are connected 24/7, and another study showed that it significantly has increased stress levels because we have a need to constantly check and immediately respond to any email, text or alert. The average person will spend approximately 30 percent of his or her time reading and replying to emails. Email is also one of the biggest barriers to productivity, forcing people to focus less and multitask more.

If you are looking to be more productive, lower your stress and also find more time to do the things you really want and need to do, then read on!

* Organize your email. I have set up an email system where I have different folders, labels, tabs and filters that automatically organize, consolidate and prioritize my email. Most email programs allow you to create rules so you can sort emails. In addition to my system, I use an email management tool called Sanebox that files my emails into different categories based on priority and urgency. This helps me determine what email I need to respond to immediately, which ones I can come back to and which ones I can ignore until later. For more information on my email system, visit

* Send less email. To receive less email, send less email. Email is convenient and is sometimes an easier alternative than just picking up the phone or walking across the hall to our co-worker. But the more mail you send and reply to, the more you will get, especially with the invention of the “reply all,” “forward” and carbon copy “cc.” Unsubscribe to any emails you don’t need.

* Be concise and precise. Be brief and get to the point in your email. Be clear in the email subject line and who the intended audience is, or you may receive more responses than intended. Avoid having too many topics in one email. Also, practice good email manners by being polite and courteous. This can help prevent confusion or a negative perception of your tone, so you can prevent any inflammatory discussions. If I send an email from my mobile device, I let the recipients know and ask them to “Please excuse brevity or writing errors.”

* Turn off email notifications and check at scheduled times. Every time I receive an alert I can’t help but check my email. Whether it be on a phone or computer, turn them off during scheduled time blocks to focus on your important tasks. Close your email program so you aren’t tempted to check periodically and break your concentration and workflow. Establish a routine for when and how you will check, and for your replies, so you don’t spend too much time on email or let it get out of hand so you have to declare “email bankruptcy.”