Refocus: Email Best Practices with Jocelyn Glei of "Unsubscribe"

By Deena Anreise | Updated: 27 Oct, 2016

Even among all the alerts, pings, instant messaging apps, phone calls, texts, social media exchanges, and meetings, email inbox issues are still considered one of the most challenging of all business-related distractionsEmail is hurting productivity in the workplace. According to Jocelyn Glei, workers are:

  •          Checking their email about 11 times an hour

  •          Processing 122 messages a day

  •          Spending about 28 percent of their work week on email

Who Is Jocelyn Glei?

Jocelyn Glei is the founding director of Behance’s 99U as well as the author of three previous books on the subject of enhanced productivity, including Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark. Her latest book, Unsubscribe: A Modern Guide to Killing Email Anxiety, Avoiding Distraction, and Getting Real Work Done (released October 4, 2016), takes the same pragmatic and actionable approach upon which she has made her name.

Why Read Her Latest Book?

There are countless books on addressing digital distractions, but Glei brings deep expertise in achieving life balance and managing time. Her latest book, Unsubscribe, is full of actionable insights that address email best practices and inbox management. She outlines the addictive behavior underlying the outbound and inbound email habits many of us have developed, which wreak havoc on our daily business productivity in the workplace.

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The Cockroach of the Technology World

As Glei recently explained to NPR’s Kelly McEvers on All Things Considered, email is like a slot machine that dishes out “random rewards that kind of come mixed in with all that junk, and that's what keeps you in that loop. It makes you kind of want to keep pulling that lever again and again maybe when you have better things to do.”

In Glei’s mind, our addiction to our email inbox really comes down to our desire to complete short tasks that will give us a completion-induced dopamine hit. This desire for a feel good reward pre-disposes us to repeat behaviors that are, at their very root, counter-productive.

What Does Glei Recommend?

First you need to understand your habit type. Glei has found that there are two types of email openers, Reactors and Batchers. Reactors constantly move back-and-forth between emails and other tasks all day long. They are the switchers; the multi-taskers. Batchers, on the other hand, deliberately limit the amount of daily time they spend checking emails. Guess which type is better?

With all the research proving that multi-tasking is for dummies, it’s really no surprise that the people who check their emails in batches — Batchers — are significantly more productive, happy, and less stressed than their more reactive counterparts, the ill-fated Reactors. Batchers are the true champions of email best practices and productivity in the workplace. 

How to Make Email More Productive in Your Work Life

Glei’s focus is on taking a once revolutionary way to be productive — email — and putting it in its place. To her credit, she doesn’t tell us to simply get rid of it, because she knows it is here to stay. Rather, Glei wants to liberate us from email’s electronic leash, which has a tendency to yank us around through our day. Her actionable, bulleted inbox management insights are setup to help even the most Reactor-steeped personalities reclaim focus at work.

Glei’s Five Distinctive Approaches for Taking (Back) Control

  1. Detox: Understand the psychology of reciprocity, completion bias, and the asker’s advantage.
  2. Focus: Lessen email distractions in order to make meaningful work your focus.
  3. Prioritize: Discover what matters most, since it’s easier to work less when you’re working faster and smarter.
  4. Provoke Action: Want to get noticed? There are simple ways to master email writing.
  5. Hit Send: Don’t press send until you’ve mastered #4 above.

In Summary

Unlike complex time management systems that have become mini religions with large swaths of disciples (e.g., Get Things Done (GTD) or Franklin Convey), Glei flags discreet productivity roadblocks and provides a clear, practical approach to overcome them. Unsubscribe won’t try to reorder your entire life. But if email is consuming nearly a third of your work week, Glei’s recommendations will quickly give your life a lot more time that you can use for a broader reorder.

Check Out Unsubscribe in Its Various Formats

Paperback ($12)

Kindle ($10)

iBooks ($10)

Audiobook (MP3) ($13)

Audiobook (CD) ($15)

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