• Paul W

Email Can Be Expensive

Over the weekend, I spent a few hours in my Professional Zone working on my new book: ‘Running in the Rain’: Focus Your Energy to Master Your Time (it was so hot that I would have really enjoyed Running in the Rain).

I wanted to concentrate on a chapter related to what we focus on when we are trying to be productive, and my research took me to a 2013 Harvard Business Review paper by Tom Cochran, who spent four years working for Barack Obama as his digital leader for the White House and the Department of State.

Cochran made a claim that his job description did not include managing email flow – and ours probably doesn’t either. He calculated that reading, writing and responding to emails ate up a huge amount of labour costs in his department. Indeed, while working at Atlantic Media, the annual cost of managing email was equivalent to that of a purchase of a LearJet. You can read the full paper here.

How valuable is your time? How valuable is the time of your colleagues and your team members?

Do you know the labour and time cost of simply forwarding an email to four people asking ‘Thoughts?’ When you do this, you stop them working and you distract them from their focus. They then feel obliged to respond with an answer you likely won’t take any action on anyway. After they've sent their response your colleagues then have to refocus on what they were doing, and when you receive their response – they are distracting you.

Distractions are the biggest drain on productivity and it's important to develop a system where your time is being used in a focused way. Not only because time is money, but it's just more satisfying to be in your zone and take short breaks than to feel like you're juggling or task-switching all the time.

A system could be implemented where colleagues and team members can share thoughts and ideas in short, focused, project-specific meetings - not routine happen-every-week meetings that often serve little purpose, but instead, valuable gatherings where there is an objective, an agenda, an outcome and some actions.

Email can be VERY Expensive: think twice about what you're sending out in your professional zone, and whether it's value outweighs the cost.