Other opinions: Does e-mail drag down productivity?

Published 6:45 pm Wednesday, November 28, 2007

By Staff
The average white collar worker spends at least two hours of work every day on email.
Collectively, that's 28 billion hours a year, estimated to cost $650 billion, according to the New York-based Basex research firm.
When I read this a couple of weeks ago, I added a silent “amen.” In theory, email is the least intrusive way to communicate. Shoot an email instead of calling and if the person is busy, they can read it at their convenience.
Unless, like me, you compulsively check the email every time the computer “dings.”
Michal Ann Strahilevitz, a marketing professor who specializes in Internet studies at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, says that in theory people should be more productive due to e-mails, cell phones and text messaging.
In reality, Strahilevitz says, “the time we used to find for tasks that require more than a few minutes of concentration is now being eaten up by unnecessary communications. We over communicate now to too many people because it is so easy to do.”
One recent study found that it took the average worker 15 minutes to get back to the original task after stopping to handle an e-mail.
The loss of productivity starts when difficult tasks are interrupted by simple ones like e-mails that turn out not to be easy, experts said. And people who don't receive quick responses to e-mails, he says, often feel put down.
Last Friday, our email was down almost all day. We paid for it dearly on Monday, but the vacation was nice. I was amazed at how much more productive I felt, so I decided to do some research on managing email for increased productivity.
Merlin Mann offers pretty good online advice. Turn off automatic checking, he says, or set it to check less frequently. Respond quickly, he says, getting the email off your plate, and get back to work.
Another online writer advocated getting your inbox to empty, adding that it is “a tremendous boost to your psyche and sanity.”
Since there are currently 400 messages in my inbox, my psyche and sanity aren't likely to get a boost any time soon. Out of sight is out of mind for me, which also is my excuse for the paper piled on my desk.
But I have resolved to check emails less often and attempt the “reply quickly and delete” advice.
And every once in a while, I'm going to declare an email holiday and try to be more productive.
Michele Gerlach, a former Brewton Standard publisher, is editor and publisher of The Andalusia Star-News.

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