I was thinking and writing about email this week. It is a quite fascinating topic and it is not the first time I'm covering it. Especially since it is something that we are all dealing with on a daily basis, and frankly most of us don't really enjoy.

Still, while we loathe processing all the boring and complicated requests we have to deal with via email, we keep checking our mailbox. In a US study conducted a while ago, they found out that on average, a work related email is read within 6 seconds. For something we dread, we check it an awful lot.

There is a perfect explanation for that. As Nir Eyal describes in his great book Hooked, email contains all ingredients to be highly addictive: there are plenty of external triggers available (notifications), it is full of surprises (you never know what you'll get until you look) and it is super easy to access (which makes it the ultimate escape for your lazy brain when you should be working on something difficult).

When I was thinking about my own behavior, I noticed one recurring datapoint: my read/act ratio is completely off. Meaning: until the moment I'm actually processing my email, I have already read it multiple times.

Zooming in on this problem, I found that this mostly happens om my mobile phone. So to tackle that, I'm launching a new experiment where I have removed my email access from my iPhone. I'm interested how that changes my effectiveness when it comes to email and the added peace of mind that this might give me.

Here are some other ideas around email that might be helpful:

  • This is an absolute must and you probably already have done this: turn off notifications. I'd suggest switching them off for almost any service, but especially for email.
  • Don't spend time archiving email into folders. Search is really powerful these days, and be honest: how many times do you actually access your carefully curated folders with old email?
  • Spend some time learning a couple of details about your mailclient: what are pro-features you don't know? Are there keyboard shortcuts that could help you improve your flow?
  • Schedule a couple blocks of time where you handle email, during your day. Before you feel the urge to check, take a 10 second break to rethink if you really should be doing this right now.

I'm curious how you're dealing with email. Do you have found your magic bullet? Let me know!