A few years back, the NY Times published an article on the negative impact email is having on our economy.

According to an Intel-funded study, a typical office worker checks their email more than 50 times a day and that the annual cost on lost productivity in the US is $650 Billion! There have been many other similar studies commissioned with almost identical findings. Are you in the trap like so many other office workers? Are you an email, iPhone/Blackberry addict? Can you go 45 minutes or longer without checking your email even once? If not, here are a few tips I’ve tried that might also work for you and bring some sanity to your work day.

  1. Turn off email notification pop-ups. This is a huge distraction. There is no way you can focus one hundred percent on your tasks if out of the corner of your screen are constant messages popping up about urgent email requests.
  2. Set your email program to check less frequently. There is no reason to check email any more frequently than every 15 minutes. Very few people expect an answer quicker than that. If they do, they are using the wrong communication method and should use IM, walk over and talk to the person or pick up a phone.
  3. Unsubscribe to as much as possible. Unsubscribe to useless email newsletters you never read, unsubscribe to email notifications from social networks. You don’t need to know every time someone follows you on Twitter or becomes your friend on Facebook.
  4. Set Rules. If you must a keep an email for archiving purposes like an email receipt or some sort of other regular email, create a rule within your email program to automatically archive it to a folder. This saves you time when you actually do go through your emails.
  5. Set a max number of threads per email. I have a rule when an email message has been emailed back and forth five times, I pick up the phone and call. It avoids me wasting any more time on the discussion.

Finally, I highly recommend you watch and learn about Inbox Zero. Merlin Mann’s talk at Google is amazing and his blog about inbox zero will also give many more great ideas to take control of your work life.
Do you continually get your email down to zero? What are some of your tips you have found worked?

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