The fact of the matter is that even though we may not care for the content of every email we receive, many of us are addicted to the act of checking email. It activates a primal impulse in our brains to seek out rewards. And in this regard we’re not very different from rats.

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This is the progress paradox: by dint of technology, it’s easy to see our progress when we’re doing relatively meaningless short-term tasks, while it’s quite difficult to see our progress when we’re engaged in the long-term, creative projects that will ultimately have the most impact on our lives.

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Normally when we communicate with someone in person or even on the phone, we are reading a thousand little social cues as we talk and deciding what to do next based on those cues.

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Each time you send an email, you are also sending something else: a subtle signal that sets expectations with your colleagues, clients, and customers.

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Every time you stop doing a task you are working on to check your email, you incur what researchers call a “switching cost.” Particularly if you’re doing any kind of work that requires deep concentration (aka creative flow) such as writing, coding, or assembling a presentation, it typically takes at least 25 minutes to get properly back into the task after you’ve interrupted yourself.

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Your working life and your credibility are built on relationships—be mindful of them.

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Learning how to follow up with finesse is an essential part of getting shit done.

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If writing a letter a hundred years ago was the equivalent of sitting down with someone in a quiet room and talking face-to-face, writing an email today is like yelling at someone across a noisy traffic intersection while they’re rushing to an appointment.

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Every email is a conversation, a social interaction that requires politeness, sensitivity, finesse, and kindness.

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One of the skills that will make or break all of us in the twenty-first century is the ability to try out and master new technologies.

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As we begin to communicate significantly more through the written word than face-to-face interaction, writing well has become a core skill everyone must cultivate.

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At the end of the day, being good at email is not a single skill. It is a collection of skills—the ability to prioritize and execute, to be empathetic and affable, to express yourself clearly and concisely—that applies to nearly all aspects of work and life.

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Distraction is the enemy of creativity. It deadens our ability to accomplish anything of import. And worse, it lulls us into a feeling of engagement, of busyness, that feels productive even as it destroys any possibility of meaningful productivity.

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