Emails: How They Waste Time And How To Manage Them (Inbox Zero)

I had over six email addresses at one point, and over 1,000 emails were dumped daily into my Inbox from hundreds of unknown senders. I spent most of my time cleaning out my Inbox rather than reading worthwhile emails.

Unfortunately, this was a significant time waster, and time is finite and is the most expensive resource I have.

I thought I could manage my time clearing out junk email, but I was failing miserably. Things were becoming messier. Then, one day, I got two emails.

The title of one of those articles was "You have been caught online while watching the P**N, give me this else I would upload your videos to xxx website" and another, "Hey, I have a business which I am closing down and want to hand it over, and you have to pay me nothing." With such wonderful subjects, I could not resist reading them. Once I began reading them, I was sent into a spiral of a never-ending reading of several other types of emails like these. An hour passes without noticing it.

In essence, I wake up to clear my inbox of unwanted emails and then read tens of emails crafted with subjects to catch my attention. Both activities are a tremendous waste of time. This was my struggle, and it is the struggle of many today.

So, how do we break this habit?

Should we stop using email and start using our traditional posts? We can't do that because emails are essential. Fortunately, I came across a solution termed “Inbox Zero.”

Let us look at who invented the excellent term" Inbox Zero" and what it means.

Inbox Zero-- In 2006, Merlin Mann, a productivity expert, introduced this concept when he found out how often emails distract from doing some important tasks. Inbox Zero means wasting zero time in your Inbox on unproductive things.

Inbox Zero. Emails and Wastage of time

What are Other Consequences If We Use More Time Just Checking the Emails?

Checking emails can often be stressful, isn't it? If you're juggling multiple tasks and monitoring your inbox occasionally, you may be more distracted than you realize.

Consequently, you might find yourself experiencing stress without even being aware of it. When stressed, people struggle to focus and deliver their best performance. Stress is a silent killer that doesn't exhibit immediate signs, but it can lead to various health-related issues over time. These issues could easily be avoided by minimizing activities that trigger stress.

Moreover, if you closely examine your emails, you'll discover that not all of them are equally important. Some are merely follow-ups, some request favors, others are promotional, while some originate from social media or bots irrelevant to your productivity or work

Therefore, since emails come from various sources, we should focus solely on those that hold significance if we genuinely aim to maximize their utility.

You can imagine how much time you spend daily on your emails and how you can use the same for other essential activities like exercising, reading, writing, or talking to your parents who are far from you.

According to this thoughtful article from HBR, working people waste over 28% of their daily working hours answering or reading emails, which equals 2.24 hours daily. Imagine what you can do in those 2.24 hours. You can read a book, write an article, or even spend that time learning a new skill to help you scale up your professional career for good. 

Why Do We Waste Time On Checking Our Emails?

You can ask this to yourself. Why do you often visit your email box? But, according to Psychology Today, there are seven main reasons people revisit their emails throughout the day.

It could be because you want to impress your boss by immediately replying to queries. Missing emails could also be a bad habit.;

Seth Godin, the writer of 16 best sellers and one of the most respected and admired marketing experts, writes in his blog that the first thing people do when they sit down before their computers is check their emails or FB messages. 

If you're a writer? Reading emails and reacting to replying to them is not supposed to be the most productive task you should be doing when you wake up. The best you can do is write or read something well to inspire you to write.

And now, let me inspire you with the example of Don Knuth, an 85-year-old (maybe more now if you're reading it after 2023) computer scientist and mathematician. Don has never used emails since 1990.

Learning this about a computer scientist who might be spending more time with computers or near them is very surprising to me. But Don has a beautiful reason for not using them. Here is what Don says about emails on why he does not use them.

“Well, as I said; I am a special case. My role in life is not to be on the top of things as much as to be on the bottom of things. It is best, often for me, to be a bit of a hermit and have time for things that require long attention spans with no interruptions; the name of the game is interruption”.

Don is highly recognized and has won several rewards for his contributions to computers and mathematics. He also received the ACM Turing Award, equivalent to a Nobel prize in computer science.

Truly, emails take away a lot of our time. Emails are time thieves if we don't use them properly.

Additionally, Emails, as explored in "Reclaiming Conversation" by Sherry Turkle and "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr, can foster shallow communication, hinder genuine connection, and overwhelm individuals with information, undermining productivity and relationships.

 So, How To Use Emails Effectively

Before you can do anything to improve your productivity in emails, you need to know how much time you spend on it. I use my iPhone very much, which I can't live without. It is an office for me with all the details I need to get my things going. 

And if you use an iPhone, you can quickly check how much time you spend on your emails. You can visit the support link on the Apple website to learn how to track the time you spend on Apps like Gmail.

Android device users can follow this link to track screen time on their devices, while Mac users can learn how to track screen time by following this link.

Once you know how much time your emails take away from you, you must analyze whether you're getting the most out of your emails. If you find out that you hardly get anything good from your emails, you need to stop checking your emails often. 

Things That Can Help

Here are three apps that can help you save time from emails
1. Boomerang - Use this to schedule emails to send later, get reminders to follow up on emails, and track responses.
2. Clean Email - Use this to organize your mailbox by grouping and sorting emails into categories.
3. Spark - Use Spark Inbox to prioritize essential emails and group newsletters &
4. Stay focused- To block all the sites of distractions when you're doing something important. 

Conclusion

Emails are important, no doubt. But if they start taking time of other useful activities, we definitely need to work on it and get things on track. And here, the Inbox Zero concept is an eye-opener.

So, today, go and check how much time you spend on emails, write reasons why you spend time on emails and once done, start taking action. Your productivity will improve tremendously.