Why Your Inbox is Lowering Your IQ

Debra Jasper
Debra Jasper // August 23, 2016

Quick: What’s the first thing you do when you get to work every morning—after that first (or third) cup of coffee?

During my keynote talks, I’ve asked this question to thousands of conference attendees—and the response is always the same.

We scan our email. Then we delete as many as we can without opening them.

From the moment we get online, we are slammed with emails: questions, requests, reminders—and a lot of messages so long and meandering we can’t figure out why they were sent in first place.

“I hate it when I get an email and I have no idea what it’s really about,” a hospital president told me the other day. “You read it. Then you read it again. And you think: What in the world are they asking me?”

If you’re like me, those long, confusing emails quickly end up in my “to-do-Saturday” pile. Or they move even further downstream into my “to-do-never” pile.

And here’s the kicker. Emails multiplying in our inbox aren’t just annoying. They are making us dumber.

Seriously. Studies show that just knowing you have emails piling up in your inbox can distract you so much it lowers your IQ—by as much as 10 points.

Email is making us dumber

The problem lies in the multi-tasking. Too many emails don’t just fire us up (with frustration). They actually slow us down, making it tougher for us to concentrate on the real work at hand.

In fact, researchers say email multi-tasking can impair your mental processing power twice as much as smoking pot (please don’t try to replicate this study at work).

So even if you’re blessed with enough IQ points to spare a few, too much email can hurt your productivity—big time.

The average professional today gets 150 email messages a day, and sends another 40+. This adds up to about 2.5 hours every day just reading email.  If you could cut that time in half, you’d get almost an entire day back every week.

So how do we stop the madness?

Serve It Up

At Mindset Digital, we’ve always been passionate about helping people communicate for today’s hyper-distracted audiences. In our Breaking Through the Noise workshop, we’ve long covered everything from delivering more visual presentations to writing more compelling tweets, posts and yes, email.

Because no matter how much time you spend on social media, it’s likely dwarfed by the third of your time you spend each week on email.

Our clients tell us that their inability to keep pace with the emails piling up in their inbox is one of the most frustrating parts of their work life. So this year we’ve expanded our email writing session into a new, all-day camp called “Serve It Up.”

Yes, it’s a half-day course focused solely on how to help you craft emails that:

  • save time
  • improve response rates
  • lead to action

We’ve been teaching this Serve It Up Camp to leaders in financial firms around the country—and the response has been amazing. As it turns out, our inbox is driving all of us crazy.

So in our next series of blog posts and podcasts, our Chief Strategy Officer, Chuck Arida (my write-emails-with-clarity-soulmate) and I will share key takeaways from our Serve It Up sessions.

Tune in. Because it’s time to rethink your email, reduce your inbox and restore your sanity.