I recently finished reading Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. It took forever to read because it was so long and touched on so many different (and interesting) topics related to the way humans think and how our minds do (and don’t) work. Even so, I highly recommend it if you like random facts.
The number one piece of information that I gleaned from the book (and which I will likely remember for the rest of my life) is that supposedly when you see an email pop up at the corner of your screen and you’re in the middle of doing something else, your IQ decreases by 10 points when you glance at the email out of the corner of your eye. Your attention has effectively been grabbed by the annoying popup, even though you may not be 100% focused on it, and it’s going to take a relatively long time to regain your flow and get back into what you were doing before the email hit.
At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to cut down on the amount of email I would get in my personal inboxes. That meant unsubscribing from what seemed like a million different listservs, and some of them won’t actually unsubscribe you the first time, so you have to keep unsubscribing until it finally sinks in on their end. So now I get about five emails a day in each inbox, which is far more manageable.
Unfortunately, at work, there is no similar way to cut down on email and distractions because 99% of the emails are from clients and contain useful/necessary information. So what I have learned to do is to turn off Outlook when I am in the middle of something important so that I can concentrate and not be distracted. This has worked quite well so far, but the only catch is that when I turn Outlook back on, I have to spend time going through the seemingly thousands of messages that accumulated in my absence.
So I suppose that email is just one of those necessary evils of life that you just have to deal with and try not to get overwhelmed by. There is even an Email Charter with guidelines on how to respect people’s inboxes and not get overburdened by the deluge.
How do you cut down on the email overload?