4 ways to be more productive when checking your emails

It is easy to waste a lot of time checking your emails. Here we suggest four things you can do to be more efficient and effective.


All too often, whenever we get an email notification – be it on our smartphone or PC – we feel compelled to open the message. As a result, and according to a survey conducted by the University of British Columbia, the average person checks his/her email 15 times a day (Source:  Mashable).

Although most of those sessions to check our emails might take less than a minute, they are distracting and can adversely affect our overall productivity. Further, the urge to check the messages does not necessarily or automatically mean that we intend to respond or act on the emails, but tends to be driven by the need to know what has arrived in our inbox. Below are four thing we can do to manage our emails more efficiently and effectively.

1.  Schedule fixed times

Instead of checking our emails every time we get a notification, and so interrupt the other things we should be doing, it is better that we schedule specific times during the day when we focus on our emails. For most people, three times daily –  first thing in the morning; around midday; and towards the end of your workday – is more than enough. Having said this, the email alerts/notifications themselves can also be a distraction. We thus suggest that the alerts be switched off.

2.  Take action

The biggest blunder we can make when checking our email, is just to read the messages, and deferring responding or taking action to a later date. In doing so, it means that we are allowing work to pile up, which ultimately lengthens our to-do list, and can be very demotivating. The best strategy, therefore, is to have the intention of getting things done. Hence, when going through our emails, be ready to take the action needed.

3.  Delete and archive

Following from the previous point, and with the thrust of taking action, most of the emails we receive in our inbox, though not spam, is really junk, such as promotions and social media-related notifications. After we have read it, and if needed acted on it, the email itself no longer has any value. We should thus have no difficulty with deleting them, and any other emails that just seems to be clogging up our inboxes.

In another vein, there are emails that we need to keep. They are not actively needed, but we should be kept for the records. This category of emails can be archived and so removed from our inbox, but still be accessed (separately) when required.

4.  Use rules

Finally, most email facilities allow us to establish rules to manage the messages we receive. Through the rules, we can prioritise our messages, thus ensuring that the most important matters get our attention first.


Image credit: Kenneth Buker (flickr)  



  • I’m all for scheduling a fixed time to check emails. In this era of “being connected”, this is a very necessary practice. Besides, some research have posited that it can take up to 20 minutes to fully get back to the same frame of mind you were in at the time of the interruption.

    However, it is also helpful to observe that our emails are now fully entwined with meeting schedules etc. Some of these alerts mean changes to schedules as well as in flow of additional information that you may be needed before the meeting. Having a strict fixed or sparsely staggered checking time ( as suggested ) may mean turning up at a critical meeting with less information than otherwise.

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