By Kevin Lawrence (www.CoachKevin.com)
Does email boost or hinder your performance? It all depends on how you use it.
Email offers us countless ways to save time and be more productive, but when we go on “email autopilot” – checking the inbox repeatedly, typing out messages that should be discussed, copying people who are only peripherally involved, and other bad habits we’ve picked up along the way – email can make us more busy than productive.
The problem with email is when we don’t contain it; our field of attention becomes fragmented. When attention is constantly shifting over to email, one’s ability to focus on work is severely compromised. The interesting thing is, professionals rarely recognize the degree to which email hampers performance.
In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by email and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The emailers, on the other hands, did worse than intoxicated people by an average of 6 points.1
Yet, in a recent survey of 320 professionals, 17% check a few times per hour and 68% check email more or less continually – constantly breaking their focus on the primary task at hand.
Thanks to the Blackberry and other portable devices, millions of people can’t go more than five minutes without checking email… and we’re doing it everywhere we go:
- In class – 12%
- In business meetings – 8%
- At the beach or pool – 6%
- In the bathroom – 4%
- While driving – 4%
- In church – 1%