Scheduling Fatigue? Blame your Email

Managers and employees have been well aware of the productivity drain caused by email for a long time. Back in 2006, CEO Scott Dockter of PBD Worldwide implemented an interesting company initiative: no email Friday. All internal communication took place in person or over the phone. Only customer service could answer external email inquires.

Mr. Dockter tells Fast Company that he decided to try the idea out after noticing how much time he and his assistant were wasting by emailing back and forth when she was seated right outside his office.

So, what were the results of no email Fridays? The roof did not cave in, and the sky did not fall. Instead, the change improved communication between colleagues and team members. Employees noted that things got done faster without the back and forth. And Fridays had a looser feel with the increased human interaction. No email Fridays was so successful that nine years later, employees were still following the policy.

Without a no email Friday, busy people look for other strategies to reduce email fatigue. In the Harvard Business Review, Peter Bregman wrote about his experience clearing his inbox after a week long vacation. It took him three hours to reply to the backlog. During a regular workweek he would spend roughly three hours per day answering emails. A more targeted, focused approach to handling emails seemed like the way to go. Rather than read every email as they came in, he decided to dedicate a specific chunk of the day to responding to them.

A peculiar psychological effect makes putting off reading emails a tricky challenge. Psychologists call the underlying stimuli of email addiction operant conditioning. We cannot resist checking and responding to a ping or peeking at our inbox because opening a new message means that there is something waiting for us, like exciting news or an intriguing offer. As a result, we cannot get enough of it. Opening an email guarantees a specific consequence: a new message. Knowing there will be a specific outcome reinforces our behavior of constantly checking it.

To add to the problem, people tend to check constantly incoming emails on the phone in their pockets. Roughly 53 percent of email is opened on a mobile device, skimmed but then dealt with via computer later. This effectively doubles the effort of reading each message.

So if we talk directly with others as much as possible and acknowledge that we are better off going through emails during an allotted time, what are other strategies to reduce email fatigue?

In some situations we can remove the need for email altogether. Scheduling is an example of a process where we spend ample time going back and forth with our contacts to come up with a convenient meeting time and location.

MeetVibe‘s mobile application provides a shortcut that bypasses this tiresome email route to scheduling. A large number of these scheduling emails involve eliminating times that do not work. Much like in traditional business tools, with MeetVibe, calendar availability can be shared with others inside or outside of your organization. When looking for a good time to get together with an associate, client, customer, or supplier the organizer can avoid requesting times that are already booked for the other person. Now, that is a useful start, and considerably more helpful than blindly emailing a handful of time windows and hoping something overlaps. The organizer can propose a date and time based off known availability.

 

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Moreover, MeetVibe tackles the other pesky challenge of sending meeting invitations via email. The probability of someone reading a meeting request over their mobile device and subsequently delaying or forgetting to respond without a reminder is quite high. Much of the back and forth is due to a lack of action on the part of one or both parties.

This issue of inaction has been masterfully addressed – MeetVibe invites expire after 24 hours.

With an imposed time limit and your calendar’s validation that you are available, there is more of a push to respond. Instead of opening an email with a mobile phone then responding later with an email, it is easier to simply click accept and finalize the scheduling process.

Likewise, the need for additional steps is gone. Receiving an invitation via email on your mobile device requires you to file it away for later when you can more comfortably access your calendar or cross-check against other email invites on your computer. MeetVibe’s invitations are delivered within a platform that has already accounted for your scheduling needs including everything from your calendar to your preferred meeting locations. This way, arranging appointments and liaising with contacts can be conducted efficiently throughout your day while you’re on the go.

Email inefficiency is widely recognized, and how we address this issue depends on our work style. Some opt for absolutist measures while others allocate specific time simply for answering emails. Whichever method you employ, a smart overall strategy is to stop throwing processes like scheduling under the auspices of email.

Naturally, this shift away from email necessitates a period of transition. MeetVibe works best when your calendar is synced to the app and your contacts are connected as Followers to view your available time. Your calendar entries or activities are never shared. Instead, followers view blocks of busy or free time. Adding your MeetVibe profile link when sharing your contact information will quickly become second nature.

For one CEO, tackling email inefficiency meant stepping outside of his office to chat with his assistant instead of emailing back and forth. For another it was dedicating a specific time exclusively for email. We like to think that there are better tools or alternatives to email. As our technology evolves, the ways in which we manage our business and cultivate our relationships change, too. MeetVibe’s scheduling solution provides a forward-thinking alternative that recognizes the importance of all these needs.

Make the most of your time – adopt the MeetVibe solution and join today.

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Also published on Medium.