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3 Reasons the Experts Are Wrong About Email

Reading your email frequently will make you and your team more productive and efficient--not less.
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If you've ever read any workplace advice from any time management experts (or even this website), you know they all say the same thing about email: Don't check it too often! Pick one or two times a day for email and never look at it except then! Reading your email all day makes you inefficient!

With all due respect to all these experts, they're wrong. Here are three reasons why checking your email all day long makes me more--not less--efficient.

1. Email is where a lot of my work happens.

Take one of my two jobs: being an independent writer. To do this I must pitch story ideas to editors, follow up, get assignments, contact sources to set up interviews, turn in articles, get feedback, and eventually send an invoice. What application do I use for all these things? You guessed it.

Time management experts seem to think that checking one's email is a distraction from one's actual work. But sending and reading emails is how I do much of my actual work. Isn't that true for you too?

2. Not checking my email would make my team less efficient.

Take my other job, president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. With 14 people (besides me) on the board of directors, an administrative staff of four, about 20 committees and a dozen chapters, there are large and small decisions to be made every day, all day. Yesterday morning, someone asked me who should notify this year's winner of our Career Achievement Award, a question that involved two committees and our executive director. With three quick emails back and forth, we determined the head of our Awards Committee should do it, and she delivered the good news an hour later.

If they'd had to wait till afternoon for me to weigh in, and then till the following day for my final email on the subject, it would have delayed the process and left everyone waiting for an answer for at least 24 hours. Yes, delaying an award notification would  be no big deal. But it could as easily have been a crisis that needed a quick solution. The point is, do you want to leave your team members sitting on their hands while they wait for the two times a day when you'll answer the questions they've asked you?

3. I might miss information that I need.

Recently I was working on an article when I paused to read my email, as I do when I need to take a few moments' break from what I'm writing. There was a message from my editor to all her writers telling us not to use a particular source who'd been quoted a few times too often in her magazine. I'd been about to include multiple quotes from that source in my article and it would have taken a substantial rewrite to take them all out.

In other words, pausing to read my email saved me hours of extra work. How's that for time management?

IMAGE: Getty Image
Last updated: Mar 26, 2013

MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, 'The Geek Gap'

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Like this post? Sign up here for a once-a-week email and you'll never miss her columns.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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