Next Actions On Emails: Do The Math To Get The Huge Savings
by Michael Hoffman
Adding a next action and a deadline to emails that require further attention is an enormously productive time-saving strategy because it helps you plan and stay organized. When you receive an email that requires more time or information to respond to, simply reading and analyzing it without taking immediate action can lead to inefficiencies and wasted time. Unfortunately, neither Google or Outlook provide the functionality to easily add a next action, but LeanMail does.
By adding a next action, you clarify what needs to be done to address the email effectively. It could involve gathering additional information, consulting with others, or scheduling a meeting. In addition, setting a deadline ensures that you allocate time to complete the task within a reasonable timeframe. This prevents emails from getting lost or forgotten amidst the continuous influx of new messages.
Without a clear next action and deadline, you may find yourself revisiting and re-analyzing the same email multiple times, which consumes extra time and mental energy. Research suggests that individuals tend to re-read emails between 6 and 8 times on average, which highlights the potential for time wastage.
As a rough estimate, if you receive 30 emails per day, you may be losing 30 minutes per day due to re-reading and re-analyzing emails. The worst part is that these time-consuming habits often go unnoticed because we are not fully aware of the cumulative effect of constantly revisiting emails.
In addition to the time-saving benefits of specifying next actions and deadlines, there’s another important factor: micro-tasking. Micro-tasking refers to the habit of quickly switching between multiple tasks or activities, often in short bursts of time. When we engage in micro-tasking, we unknowingly contribute to the constant re-reading of emails. We may spend just a few seconds here and there skimming through messages without realizing the cumulative effect it has on our productivity. These small increments of time, often lasting 30 seconds or less, may seem insignificant on their own. However, when we consider the frequency with which we engage in micro-tasking throughout the day, these tiny moments quickly add up.
The problem lies in our lack of awareness. We don’t consciously register the multitude of times we revisit the same email, mentally reviewing its content and pondering what needs to be done. We underestimate the cognitive load that comes with this constant re-reading and analysis. It’s like having a leaky faucet, where each individual drop may not seem like much, but the accumulation over time leads to significant wastage.
By breaking free from the cycle of micro-tasking and embracing the practice of specifying next actions and deadlines, we disrupt this unconscious pattern. We bring awareness to the hidden costs of constant re-reading and eliminate the need for fragmented thinking. Instead of repeatedly skimming through emails, we can confidently rely on the clarity provided by next actions and deadlines, freeing up mental space for more focused and efficient work.
Recognizing the impact of micro-tasking and its role in our constant re-reading of emails is crucial. It sheds light on the hidden time and energy drain that occurs behind the scenes. By addressing this issue head-on and proactively managing our email workflow with next actions and deadlines, we can regain control over our time, reduce cognitive overload, and experience the satisfaction of streamlined productivity.
So, let’s not underestimate the power of those fleeting moments of re-reading emails. By becoming aware of their cumulative effect and implementing effective strategies, such as specifying next actions and deadlines, we can reclaim those precious seconds and redirect our energy towards more meaningful and productive endeavors.