Modern day work environments are fraught with distractions.  Not only do you have co-workers who might walk by your desk to interrupt what you’re doing, but we communicate on so many more levels at work: e-mail, instant messaging, conference phone, cell phone, video conferencing, etc.  It is good for your productivity (and your sanity) to unplug for a while, otherwise, you’d never get anything done.

That doesn’t mean you should completely ignore these channels of communication, especially e-mail.  When you walk away from your desk for two hours and come back to an inbox full of 50 messages, you may consider just not answering any of them.  You’ve got work to do, right?

Well, so do your teammates.  While not all e-mail needs an immediate reply, odds are, somewhere in your stack of 50 are a few requests or questions from team members that need attention.  Without your input, they may be stuck on a task, or worse, they do move forward and in a way that is counter-productive to the team.

You should get to know who these people are, and scout for them in your inbox from time to time.  Make sure you always reply within 24 hours (better yet, 3-4 hours).  If you don’t, you might be individually productive, but your project might suffer from lack of cohesive direction, and ultimately, nothing gets done.

-Deborah Fike

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