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The Price of Constantly Checking Your Email

Ron Friedman writing on the Harvard Business Review blog has a beef with people who constantly check their email. And you know what? He’s got a point. Friedman says, “Shifting our attention from one task to another, as we do when we’re monitoring email while trying to read a report or craft a presentation, disrupts our concentration and saps our focus.” And all these distractions take their toll on your productivity. He cites a University of California-Irvine study that indicates trying to get back to your original momentum after these interruptions can take more than 20 minutes. So how many of these interruptions does it take to completely ruin your day?

Plus, as I’ve said many times, other studies show that multitasking is a total myth. As Friedman says, “A more accurate account of what happens when we tell ourselves we’re multitasking is that we’re rapidly switching between activities, degrading our clarity and depleting our mental energy. And the consequences can be surprisingly serious. An experiment conducted at the University of London found that we lose as many as 10 IQ points when we allow our work to be interrupted by seemingly benign distractions like emails and text messages.”

Multitasking – as in checking email, listening to music, watching TV, or talking to a friend when you work is a disaster. Sure you tell me – you can handle it. It makes you more creative. Nope. I haven’t found a single study that indicates multitasking helps you do anything positive. It only helps you do many things badly.

Focus – that’s the word for the week.  Turn off the email, Twitter, Facebook, and anything else that keeps you from accomplishing your goal. Try at least a few hours of total concentration and see where it leads.

I think you’ll be shocked.

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Phil Cooke is the founder and CEO of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles (CookeMediaGroup.com) where his team helps church, ministry, and nonprofit organizations engage the culture more effectively through media. He's a filmmaker, media consultant, and author of "Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media."