Monday 05, Jul 2021

Is Email Killing Your Productivity?

Isn’t it ironic that technology that is invented to save us energy, time and money can end up becoming a double-edged sword?

Email is one example of a small element of your business day that can impact your productivity in significant ways, both positively and negatively. Faster and cheaper than letters, stamps and next day delivery (?), email is the conversation tool for businesses. But the fact that it’s faster and cheaper means people can “post” you junk that they wouldn’t invest in a letter, stamp and trip to the post box.

Therefore, email can get out of hand.  Often it may appear to be a mountain of a task to get it back under control. It has become a distraction in itself: email notifications pop up throughout the day, demanding our immediate attention.

Achieving Inbox Zero

Merlin Mann developed the concept of Inbox Zero – a rigorous approach to email management with the goal to keep the inbox empty—or almost empty—at all times. Inbox Zero aims to eliminate email distractions, reduce the time spent sifting through email detritus and declutter your screen (as well as your brain). Most importantly, though, Inbox Zero gives you a sense of control and achievement which extends beyond the screen.

Inbox Zero can be achieved in many ways, but I will share my method with you. When an email appears in my inbox, I follow these four Ds:

  • Do – can I action this in under two minutes? If yes, do it immediately.
  • Dump – is this junk? Get rid of it immediately.
  • Delegate – if it doesn’t fit into your area of responsibility, delegate it immediately.
  • Decide when – if actioning the email will take longer than two minutes, decide when you will do it instead. Set an alarm or schedule an appointment in your calendar.


There are some people that love to get to Inbox Zero on a daily basis. For others, however, this seems a bit too daunting. Instead, many aim for zero emails in their inbox 5pm on Friday. Whichever way works for you, the feeling of leaving work for the day (or the weekend) knowing you’re at Inbox Zero is sweet. Give it a try!

Managing Email Hacks

  • Only check your email a few times a day, or once an hour, on the hour.
  • Add a line under your email signature that says something like “I only check my emails three or four times a day. If the matter is urgent, please give me a call or walk around to my desk to come see me”. This approach may not work for everyone, but if applied, it has the opportunity to give you control over your emails, rather than your emails controlling you.
  • Close your email client down when you want to focus on other tasks.
  • Down tools at the end of the day. Decide on a time to finish up and set an alarm so that you definitely do. Then, most importantly, while your away from work do not log on to check your emails. If work is too busy and this is not an option, choose a time (and duration) to check your emails away from work, and stick to your time. E.g., 8pm for 15 minutes.
  • Finally, if you can’t close your email client down, at least turn your notifications off. There’s an hour back just from eliminating distracting pop-ups.

Email Overwhelm

Does your email inbox feel overwhelming? Does it seem like you are always on the back foot when it comes to dealing with your inbox? Apart from the time it takes to attend to each email individually, email can be overwhelming and draining energy, in a few ways.

First of all, being irritated by unsolicited email “deliveries” can be very frustrating and even cause you to feel angry. Emotional energy is put in, especially when we try to “unsubscribe”, and the addressee makes it laborious and difficult.

Just seeing emails sitting there in our inbox can feel draining and exhausting. Once you have achieved Inbox Zero for the first time and experience the rush of energy you’ve made available, you’ll know what I mean.

Now… go forth and conquer your email.

With thanks to our guest author:

Les Watson
Time & Productivity Coach
Get More Time


Les Watson’s passion for and expertise in time management and productivity has earned him the nickname ‘The Time Lord’.
He has worked extensively throughout Australia and South-East Asia delivering dynamic training programs to major corporations, small businesses, and individuals.
Les’s depth of knowledge and skill comes from over 30 years of experience as a trainer, speaker, and facilitator in self-management, motivation, and communication. He lives and breathes time management in his own life.

Header image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay