What is that doing to our brains?
The short answer is it’s making them worse, according to the Harvard Business Review and other sources.
Here’s the science:
• It saps our time: Every time you get interrupted — like when your phone buzzes with a new email or your Gmail tab compels you toward the inbox — you lose 20 minutes. According to a University of California-Irvine study, that’s how long it takes to reacquaint yourself with the details of what you left.
• It makes us dumber: A psychiatrist at King’s College London University found that fussing with your email leads to a functional drop of 10 IQ points, more than smoking marijuana.
• It slows us down: 20 years of psych research shows that switching between tasks takes up to 40% longer than just taking one task at a time.
• It erodes our ability to concentrate: People who multitask all the time have trained their brains out of being able to focus. As Stanford researchers have found, multitasking — like constantly switching between your work and your email — slowly changes your brain structure so that you can’t focus.
The best option might be to take strategy consultant Ron Friedman’s advice: Change your environment by way of quitting Outlook, closing email tabs, and turning off your phone for a 30-minute chunk of deep-diving work.
“The alternative, which most of us consider the norm, is the cognitive equivalent of dieting in a pastry shop,” he writes. “We can all muster the willpower to resist the temptations, but doing so comes with considerable costs to our limited supply of willpower.”
Since the most successful people spend their brain’s reservoir of attention on the most important things and pare down the rest — like President Obama always wearing the same suit so he doesn’t have to think about it — it’s ridiculous to waste energy on your inbox.
In short: Hack your email, save your brain.