The surface answer? It’s disorganized and disruptive.
Once its selling point, email’s universal accessibility has flooded our inboxes with everything from updates to newsletters to Aunt Maud’s dinner invitations. Curating your inbox has become a daily chore; there are even dozens of articles promising email management help.
Even when taking their sage advice by limiting email checks or structuring reply strategy, the reality remains that effort is required. You must conform your habits to best operate your inbox.
Yet the question remains — why?! What is it about email that downshifts our brain a few gears?
The real problem lies with the rampant multitasking that email necessitates. The American Psychological Association explains that though our brains are built with mechanisms for efficient task shifting, excessive switching “can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”
If you’re scoffing in conviction of your otherworldly multitasking prowess, you aren’t alone… but you’re also likely underestimating the damage posed. Stress indicators such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels are all attributed as byproducts of multitasking.
Email’s negative health effects are well-documented, but the source of our overlying inefficiency extends beyond multitasking to a deeper culprit: emotional overload. Even the most benign email incites an emotional stimulus from its recipient; add up dozens or even hundreds of emails a day and the toll becomes substantial.
Consider the following from Stanford Medicine Scope blog’s Emma Seppala:
“In our email-less past, we would experience maybe one highly emotional event a day… Our stress response is evolved to handle and recover from a small number of stressful situations but not a whole host of them.”
Email and its social media brethren induce an unnatural rate of emotional fluctuation in their users
It stems from the wide variety of message topics and requests as well as the anxiety of unresolved emails and notification dopamine upticks. This over-stimulation causes a diffusion of emotional focus, meaning that your ability to fully put your heart into a project diminishes with each email checked.
When you flip back to your open email tab, be wary of the inevitable mental and emotional toll each click will have on your productivity. We here at One More Company are doing what we can to ease the burden of email, but it seems each of us must strive to keep our minds — and our hearts — on the task at hand.
Also published on Medium.