Email may sound like a dry topic, but wow do our inboxes affect our lives. So since Sarah and I both recently read Cal Newport’s book, A World Without Email, we decided to use this week’s episode of Best of Both Worlds to delve into how we communicate, the upsides and downsides of email, and our tips for keeping it under control.
Cal notes that the “hyperactive hive mind” behavior that email enables is both detrimental to productivity (people check messages on average something like every six minutes!) and makes people miserable. We can’t unplug easily, because the thought of a close colleague being unable to reach us puts the brain’s danger system on high alert. In evolutionary terms, you’d never ignore a tribe member helping you hunt a mastodon…and, alas, that’s what not checking email for a few hours can feel like.
We both agree that email is useful for some things (so maybe “A World With Less Email” as a title?) and can be managed better when organizations don’t treat employee attention as a limitless resource, subject to the tragedy of the commons. Listen to the episode to find out how and when we process email — on some level it sounds different, though probably not so terribly different in the end.
In the question section, we give advice to a listener who needs to study for a professional licensing exam. In industries where you must pass a high stakes exam, adequate study time needs to become a family priority. Sadly, there is some evidence that this might be less the case for women than for men. We talk about some ways to make time (and how Sarah has studied in the past).
Please give the episode a listen, and as always, we welcome reviews and ideas of other topics we can cover!