I tried answering emails as soon as I got them and this is what happened

I currently have over 700 junk, old, or promotional emails lurking in the depths of my inbox. I’ve gotten into a groove with my work emails where I respond to communications that are a priority, putting aside messages that don’t need my immediate attention. And while I do enjoy receiving emails, the abundance of messaging can be overwhelming and distracting, especially with a list of work tasks that need to complete.

It is believed that you can get rid of anxiety and stress — not to mention be more productive when you tackle emails in chunks. But I was curious about a new approach: answering emails as soon as they came in. Would this help me to stay on top of requests/questions that come my way or would it cause a decline in my productivity?

This is what happened when I answered my emails as soon as I got them, below.

It was overwhelming

During certain times, I found it overwhelming. I was feeling pretty good in the morning as I drank my coffee and charted my to-do list with some specific tasks while also attending to emails as they came in.

This was smooth-sailing, between 9-10 a.m., when a few emails started to trickle in. I felt focused and had the attention span to answer them with long, detailed explanations. After around 11 a.m., the emails started to amp up and my responses became much shorter and direct.

This was particularly challenging when I stepped away to grab a bite for lunch, coming back to 10 new messages. There were points in the afternoon when it became increasingly challenging to stay on top of all of the messages that came in.

I couldn’t concentrate

Constantly being on top of email takes away from tasks at hand. As I was making sure to be on top of my incoming emails, I found it was a distraction that took me away from specific tasks I was working on. Going back-and-forth from emailing to actually working took my focus away from what I really needed to concentrate on. It made emailing even more irritating.

I was annoyed

Junk mail is overwhelming and, even more so, annoying. While I tried to concentrate on work, promotion and deal emails kept coming through. Typically, I bulk delete these emails or ignore them as they pile up in my Promotions or Social tab. Since I was attending to all emails, including the junk ones, I ended up deleting and unsubscribing to a ton of branded emails and services that are just weighing down my inbox.

I had more time in the evening to relax

During the day, I also receive some emails that typically aren’t as pressing as others, which I don’t always get to right away. During this experiment, I was able to stay on top of all of my messages. At the end of the day, I didn’t have to go back and respond. Sometimes this can take me an hour or more at night to stiff through. I had more time in the evening to myself.

I realized I need to manage my email settings better

There is so much more we can all do to manage our emails. I realized that I don’t utilize all of the settings in my inbox, and I now want to better understand how I can use them for bulk deleting and unsubscribing.

My takeaway

Emailing is exhausting anyway you look at it. By staying on top of all the emails that came my way, I found that my attention was scattered and distracted as I tried to answer messages while also focusing on my actual work. And while responding to priority messages is definitely my email style, I also learned that I need to work on making my emails shorter and more concise.