Like many professionals, you may wonder whether you should be answering email throughout the day or setting times to check your messages. Your solution most likely is whatever keeps you on task and improves your productivity. Whatever your decision, make sure others know when to expect a response, so they know you are staying on top of communications.
Answer Email Every 45 Minutes
Your attention span typically lasts this long before you need a break. Checking email during each break leads to greater productivity. In contrast, constantly checking your inbox is a time drain that takes your focus away from important work. Your interrupted tasks remain open, demanding your attention. You must decide whether to attend to the interruption or stay on task. Whichever choice you make, you have to put off the other task and return to it another time.
Answer Email Five Times Daily
Limiting how often you check your inbox helps you become proactive rather than reactive. Remember that the more email you send, the more you receive. Therefore, you need to delete, file, reply or create a to-do task after reading each message. Reading and leaving an email creates overload and a lack of control.
Answer Email Twice Daily
If business hours are 8-5, you may decide to check your inbox at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Set up an auto reply explaining you do not check your email between the hours of 11 and 4 and that you can be reached by phone if there is an emergency. Ask that people email again if they have not heard from you in two days. You will be more focused and productive throughout the day while still responding to your messages. Additionally, the majority of email is not urgent and most people are willing to wait for a response. Keep in mind that you will take less time to answer messages, typically five hours per week, which is better that the 14 hours or more than many office workers spend on email. Also, because most workers are still in the office when you reply, you are more likely to get a response back. Plus, you typically will not feel fatigued after answering email.
Avoid Answering Email After Business Hours
You need time away from work to physically recover from your day. If you are always working, your productivity and well-being decrease as your stress level increases. If you come up with ideas during your time away, write them down for further development later.
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