This productivity expert's 'five sentence rule' can help you cut your email time in half

Multitasking slows you down by 50 percent, according to a productivity expert—here's what to do instead
Multitasking slows you down by 50 percent, according to a productivity expert—here's what to do instead

In addition to meetings, social media and Slack messages, one of the biggest distractions in the workplace is email. Workers check their emails an average of 11 times per hour, which equals 88 times over a normal work day.

That's according to productivity expert and author Chris Bailey. For a year, Bailey conducted a productivity experiment in which he studied how to be as productive as possible each day. His latest book, "Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distractions," outlines several hacks he uses in his personal life, including a "five sentence rule" that he says cuts his email time in half.

Here's how it works: Bailey only sends email responses that are under five sentences. He notes the rule in his email signature by saying, "To respect your time and mine, I'm keeping every email to five sentences or less." For anything that requires a longer response, he picks up the phone.

He says not only has this rule saved him time going back and forth over email, it has also helped him build better relationships with the people he communicates with.

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"I think there is a cost to email that we don't consider," he tells CNBC Make It. "We're able to get information from other people more quickly, but at the same time it makes our relationship a bit more shallow." He says he's learned that people appreciate short, thoughtful email responses. He's even seen a few of his colleagues start to mention their own five sentence rule in their email signatures.

Workplace strategy expert and author Leigh Stringer tells CNBC Make It that sending long messages is one of the biggest mistakes professionals make when it comes to email. In fact, she says, "a long email is a signal you're using the wrong communication tool."

"If it's an open-ended question, an in-depth question or a complex question that requires back and forth banter, it's probably worth a phone call," she says. "You think it's faster communicating over email but it can actually be a time suck."

Stringer says that in addition to wasting your own time, long emails can signal that you're inconsiderate of other people's time. "You never know what your boss is going through," she says. "Don't assume you are the only person in your boss' life."

Stringer suggests keeping your emails brief by using bullet points or bolded words to highlight anything requiring action. She says you should also triple-check the tone of your message to ensure that it's coming across in a positive way.

"Quick notes on the status of a project you're working on and keeping your boss informed is a good habit to form," she says. "A bad habit would be to try to fit everything into one long email that might have a negative tone to it."

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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