Answering emails can be one of the biggest time wasters, and you've probably already heard the tip of keeping your email closed, and only handling electronic communication during certain times of day.
This is a truly wonderful practice, but few people realize why it's so helpful.
Quite simply, answering a barrage of emails will break your concentration. There's always 'set up' time when working on a project. You stop and think about the work ahead of you, you focus on the task at hand, and then get it done. Now, if you're breaking your focus every 5 minutes because of emails, then you're throwing away that valuable mental 'set up' time to re-focus, and worse yet, you're undermining the final quality of your work. Furthermore, many of the emails you get create mental to do's in the back of your mind. Before you know it, you have a hundred things in the back of your mind, all breaking your concentration, and sometimes leading to decision paralysis, because you have to evaluate everything on your list and constantly decide what's the most important thing to do first.
As a manager, setting up specific times for your employees to answer emails and phone calls can bring tremendous improvement in their overall job satisfaction. By expressly limiting their email time to specific slots in the day, you're empowering them to focus on their most important deliverables. You're also indirectly telling them "Hey, your tasks for the day are more important than any email you get. Please focus on the work at hand."
Now, of course, this isn't possible with all teams. In some instances immediate communication via email and instant messaging is an absolute must. But if you can limit your employee's email time to specific slots in the day, then do it. You will see productivity and the quality of the work go up.
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