Do you start processing email right away on Mondays?
Hold that thought, because it might be the worst day to go on an email frenzy.
A new study by Boomerang looked at 250,000 emails (you read that right--it's a lot) and found that most of us tend to be more error prone on the first day of the week.
The company, which makes a plug-in for Gmail, looked at subject lines specifically. We tend to write the subject lines quickly with too many typos and misspelled words. On Monday, the error rate is two points higher than it is on Friday. The best day of the week is Saturday, with an error rate that's six points lower than Monday on average--guess we're all well-rested by then. Sunday is also a better day for sending emails.
Another finding has to do with sentiment. Boomerang found that the subject lines of emails sent on Monday tend to be more negative. All of these studies are related to response rates, a.k.a. the reason we even send emails. When there are errors in a subject line on emails sent on Monday, people are 14% less likely to respond. When there was one error in the subject line, responses dropped by 5% overall. When the email subject was a total mess with five or more errors, the response rate dropped by 11%.
As usual, I have a pretty good theory about why Mondays are bad for email.
Coming off the weekend, we're ready to hit things pretty hard. I'm known to furiously process email earlier in the week and it is my primary day for sending them. Most of us figure, if we send a big batch of emails on Monday, maybe people will get around to responding by Friday.
Yet, Monday is also the day we're catching up on everything else. We're attending meetings, trying to figure out which tasks are important, maybe kicking off a new project. Email is second nature to most of us, so we fly through it quickly and move on to other duties. Plus, many of us think more emails equals more productivity.
Now the question is: What to do about it?
One obvious solution is to wait until Tuesday to send emails. Make Monday your day to grind away on some important tasks. Most productivity experts say the best approach to work is to finish your most important tasks first and to avoid the trap of being a "completist" who checks everything off your list even if some of the tasks are not that important. The problem with holding your email is that it does give people one fewer day to respond. It's tempting to tap into the boost you get on Monday and do everything, but my advice is to slow down a bit on email. Send the important messages, save the rest for another day. The real problem is not sending emails on Monday, it's sending too many of them, doing so in a big hurry, and making errors.
Also, here's a tip I've been doing lately. Since it's fairly well known that I hate processing email, I've been using other methods like Facebook chat way more often. My view is that Facebook is a more casual hub for communication and it's more direct. Plus, it works. People don't always expect to get a Facebook chat request and they might be curious enough to accept it. And, I'm picking up the phone more. Now that's really surprising!