8 ways email drags down productivity

Beyond key questions about who should be included on which message threads, there’s also the impairment of your mental focus and sheer drain on your time.

For years I’ve known that email is evil.

It wasn’t until I started working in a team that I realized how much time and energy gets swallowed by this creature. We learn from our mistakes.

Email is just like a game of Tetris. You start with a clear goal of getting your inbox down to zero. When you’ve achieved that and turned your eyes away from the screen, you hear a notification—that annoying signal that you got a new email.

There’s not a chance in hell you could actually win the game—unless you accept this reality and move on to better tools and methods.

Why should you restrict the email use in your team? Here are eight reasons:

1. It wastes a lot of time.

On average, an office worker spends 25 percent of his or her workday answering and sending emails. This means 1,500 hours a year goes to writing emails, searching for information and attempting to “collaborate” internally.

We spend more time dealing with our inboxes than collaborating and communicating with co-workers. Focus on improving your internal communications. Using more social technologies in the workplace could reduce email use by 25 percent.

2. Group conversations quickly get overwhelming.

I despise the email group conversation. These long threads offer little value but create a lot of confusion. They are full of unnecessary “thanks” and “I got it” phrases, and within a short amount of time these chains become overwhelming.

If Atos managed to remove email from its 74,000-member team, so can you. By replacing it with a social technology, you could raise interactive productivity by 20 percent.

3. It kills valuable tacit knowledge.

Tacit knowledge is difficult to transmit from one team member to another. Choosing email as your preferred medium makes it even more challenging.

For every 10 minutes we spend on our actual job, we spend seven minutes on email. The more time we spend on email, the less time we have to contribute in a meaningful way.

4. You get no overview whatsoever.

The bigger the team, the harder it is to get a clear overview. Going through your inbox to see who’s responsible for what is not productive, either.

What’s worse, people are expected to answer emails within hours. Checking email is the most popular activity on smartphones. Over three-quarters (78 percent) do it regularly. What ever happened to calling when it’s an emergency?

5. It destroys focus.

Continually checking our inboxes has hit productivity hard. On average, we check email 36 times. That’s without acknowledging that it takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling an incoming message.

Why should you be cut off from your precious inbox? Because workers who are cut off from email focus for longer periods of time and are less stressed.

We constantly struggle to find time for work that really matters. Perhaps it’s time to focus our effort on tasks that have an impact.

6. It restricts transfer of knowledge.

Email is private: It’s between the sender and receiver.

Although this feature might be useful when closing deals and communicating with external partners, it’s unhelpful within teams. You never truly know which piece of information might be beneficial for another team member.

By using email you also limit the ability for others to learn from the information transfer. No one but the email recipients can benefit from the knowledge transfer.

7. It breeds confusion.

It takes more time to process one email than it does to write one. With magical features such as CC, BCC and Reply All, valuable information gets buried deeper and deeper with every email.

To make its people more mindful about whom they include on a message, Nielsen management got rid of the Reply All button from its internal email software. Email has become so casual that people must learn how to use it mindfully.

8. It’s anti-social.

Efficient teamwork demands flexibility, transparency and clarity.

In my team, we have substituted emails with Weekdone team reporting software. This enables us to view and comment on each team member’s key achievements, plans and problems. Conversations stay in context, and a quick overview is always possible.

So, let’s all just spend a little less time sifting through the inbox and focus on efficient teamwork. Ditch the email, and find a different tool or method that suits your team.

There are hundreds of better alternatives for internal communication.

A version of this article first appeared on TLNT.

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