Why Checking Email Frequently is Bad for Your Brain

Checking email frequently is bad for your brain
Photographer: Possessed Photography | Source: Unsplash

Email is a tool. I think it’s a fantastic tool. If you need to deliver information, you need to deliver files. It is far superior to a fax machine or voicemail, or memos. There’s a reason why it spreads so rapidly. So what’s the actual problem? The way we began to work once email was available.

Once email arrived on the scene, we switched over to a workflow that I call the hyperactive hivemind. We said, “Now that we have low friction, digital communication, in addition to just using this to replace what we used to do on the fax machine, replace what we used to do with memos, using this to replace voicemail, let’s now actually work things out like collaborate with back and forth unscheduled messaging.”

The future of work is increasingly cognitive. This means that the sooner we take seriously how human brains actually function and seek out strategies that best complement these realities, the sooner we’ll realize that the hyperactive hive mind, though convenient, is a disastrously ineffective way to organize our efforts. — Cal Newport, A World Without Email

Checking email frequently is bad for your brain
Photographer: Denys Nevozhai | Source: Unsplash
Photographer: Patrick Tomasso | Source: Unsplash

The metric you are trying to minimize when you’re optimizing these processes should be the number of back and forth messaging required. It’s not time. It’s not complexity, it’s not pain or convenience. It is how much unscheduled back and forth messaging is required for this process to complete.

SCIENTISTS MEASURE HOW ELECTRONS MOVE IN SYNC WITH ATOMIC VIBRATIONS AT SLAC.     SLAC/STANFORD PROFESSOR AND SLAC STAFF SCIENTIST WITH THE ARPES INSTRUMENT USED TO MEASURE ELECTRON ENERGY AND MOMENTUM IN AN IRON SELENIDE FILM.
Photographer: Science in HD | Source: Unsplash
Laboratory. Tube (vial) with body material being transported on a track to analyzer in large Dutch lab.
Photographer: Testalize.me | Source: Unsplash

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