It may seem harmless enough but this insidious piece of technology has cost the planet millions of hours in lost productivity. It has almost certainly eaten valuable chunks of your day. It is Outlook's "New Mail Desktop Alert". How much harm can a dinging sound and a popup cause?
It costs you everyday
Every email notification is an interruption. Glancing down at the pop-up may only mean a small change of focus but often these notifications draw you into responding immediately to an email, taking you away from the task you set out to do. A study by Microsoft suggests that it could take up to 15 minutes to get back on track after an interruption. The harder the task, the longer it takes to get back on track. So while the actual interruption averages between 6 to 9 minutes, the time to get back to your normal level of productivity is much longer. Email notifications mean the potential of constant source of interruptions. Most of us receive at least 30-60 email a day. According to Basex, an IT research and consulting firm, the average person working with a computer loses 2.1 hours of productivity a day due to interruptions and distractions.
It makes you less intelligent
It gets worse! Not only do these annoying pop-ups waste your time, according to a study by the Institute of Psychiatry they also impact your intelligence. Those distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw their IQ fall by 10 points – far worse than found in studies of the impact of smoking marijuana, researchers said. Another study at the University of Michigan found a 40 percent drop in productivity when subjects tried to do two or more things at once. In an article titled "Email is making you Stupid", "Information Week" states that the “research is overwhelming. Constant email interruptions make you less productive, less creative and -- if you're emailing when you're doing something else -- just plain dumb”.
One popup cost me almost an hour
Here’s just one example of how it cost me time before I got rid of this time-waster… I had an important task which had to get done that day so I blocked out three hours in the morning. Ten minutes later I was just getting into the task when suddenly at the bottom left of my screen popped up a little mail notification with the subject "FW: THIS IS VERY COOL!!!". I didn’t want something so trivial to interrupt my task (and I had already seen this one before) so I slid my mouse down and hit the cross to delete the email. It felt good to delete it immediately. A few minutes later I saw another email notification popup with a question. This time it was related to a project I was working on. I knew I could respond to this immediately and get it out of the way. Ten minutes later I hit “Send” with my response. It felt good to be able to help straight-away. Now I could get back to my important task but I thought I should have a quick check of what else was in my inbox. Before I realised it, almost an hour had gone! I had responded to a couple of email that should have waited and it meant that it was going be difficult to get my task completed by the end of the day. It turned out that I had several more email distractions later in the day and ended up having to stay back (with my email off) to get it done. I may be someone who is easily distracted by email but research suggests that I’m not the only one. More than 50% of surveyed workers say they try and respond to email “immediately” or as soon as possible.
What can you do about it
- Turn it off! (follow the link for instructions)
- Manage Email in Batches. Set aside three times during the day to deal with email. (This depends on your job)
- Do one task at a time. Studies have shown that multitasking does not work.
- Help rid the world of this time-waster. Register your vote by clicking on "Like" below.