Automation & Efficiency

Are You Tired of Email?

I have a love-hate relationship with email. On the one hand, it’s a great way for me to communicate. I can usually read and respond to an email quickly so folks get what they need in a timely fashion. On the other, email tends to suck me in. I’ll look up realizing half a day is gone, and my to-do list is collecting dust.

This week I tired something different. After hearing somewhere that email is the sender’s to-do list for you and that your responding is only helping them get stuff done, I decided to ignore my email. Instead, I started my day going through my to-do list. As I checked items off, the momentum increased. Before I knew it, I looked up realizing half a day had past, but this time, my to-do list was done!

It was amazing. I felt productive and ready to conquer the world – or take the afternoon off because, why not?

Of course, I didn’t go radio-silent on my emails forever, but not starting my day with them allowed me to focus on my list. Once I got the items done that I needed to do, I ran through my emails. I knocked out the quick ones. I made new to-do items for ones that required more than a response. And I closed the window when I was done.

Then, I got back to my list and worked ahead of schedule. Or I worked on the project I’ve been so excited to start but haven’t been able to find the time. Or, I went for a walk. No matter what I did, however, I didn’t feel guilty because I knew what I needed to get done was done.

Email is a wonderful tool, but we have to keep it in check. It can quickly rule our day and leave us feeling unproductive despite the amount of time we spent. Here are some other ideas for managing email:

  • Identify specific times of the day that you’ll check and answer email. Maybe it’s before lunch and before you leave for the day. Be diligent about it and folks will only expect a response from you then. I’ve even received emails from folks who put their “email times” in the signature block, making it very easy to know when I could expect a response. I loved it!
  • Close the window. I have a terrible habit of keeping my email widow open to the side of my screen, so no matter what I’m working on, I can see the new messages as soon as they come in. It’s so distracting. When I closed the window, I was able to focus and get things done much quicker.
  • Turn off notifications. Even if the email window is closed, if you have notifications turned on like pop-up alerts or sounds, it will be even more distracting because now there’s the element of wonder. “Oh, I wonder who that email is from? Let me check real fast. ” I turned all the notifications off, including the counter on the program icon. The only way I get information about email is when I intentionally open the program.
  • Treat your phone the same. If you’re like me, your office is wherever you are because your phone is a minicomputer. I treat my phone the same way I do my computer. I don’t open email while I’m making breakfast. I don’t have alerts turned on. I don’t use it as a way to pass the time. As an extension of my office, email on my phone follows the same rules.

What’s your relationship with email? Has it taken over your day? Or have you kept it in check? Share some of your challenges and tips below!