Do you ever count how many emails you get at work each day? Never?
Have you ever been distracted by email? I am sure you have been.
You am like most professionals. You work on many projects. Email comes and goes through your inbox. Yet, I realized that some days I seem to never get enough done. Email was my bane. It took me away from the important to answer the urgent. These urgent calls could have been answered an hour or two later. It really would have been fine. Yet, there is an impulse to drop things and reply.
In The Four-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss discusses the concept of how checking your email constantly ruins productivity.
When I say I check my work email 3 times a day, I really mean that. Once at 10:00 a.m., once at 1:00 p.m. And one at 4:00 p.m.
For me, checking email in this fashion was feasible. When I tell people I only check work email 3 times a day, they are skeptical. I understand the skepticism completely. Common skeptical reasons include:
· People will be mad at me if I do not reply fast enough.
· I do not have time to wait a few hours before replying.
These are very valid reasons. There are always pressures for you to reply as quickly as possible. There can always be that one email that requires a very urgent reply, asking for a number, confirmation or a decision. There is also the added pain of not replying fast enough and being chastised for it. Depending on the culture of your firm and your role these things can definitely occur.
I am telling you checking your email 3 times a day can definitely be feasible.
“One look at an email can rob you of 15 minutes of focus. One call on your cell phone, one tweet, one instant message can destroy your schedule, forcing you to move meetings, or blow off really important things, like love, and friendship.” — Jacqueline Leo
Here are some of the benefits of checking your email at set times and how to set things up so you check your email only 3 times a day.
More Major Time:
You are able to spend more uninterrupted and concentrated time on important tasks. This is known as Major Time and I wrote about it in detail here. Major Time is in contrast to Minor Time. Minor Time is time you spend on a task where you are distracted and interrupted constantly. Checking email many times a day has this effect on your work.
When writers stop to sharpen pencils or get up and make coffee to procrastinate, they still stay in their heads with their characters. But when you zip over to read email or check your Facebook page, you get zapped out of the fictive dream. It’s brutal on my writing. — M. J. Rose
More productive and less stressed:
You are more productive because you spend more time doing concentrated work. When you are able to get a lot done or feel like you got a lot done you become less stressed.
You’d be surprised how little people notice:
People really do not notice. I did not tell anyone about my plans to only check email three times a day. When people had urgent business and could not reach me, they called my work phone. When people call your work phone directly, its likely very urgent.
So how do you get this done?
Empower your team:
Checking your email less frequently can cause issues if you manage others or work in a team. Empower your team to make decisions is the simplest solution to solving this. This will reduce your inbox volume. No longer will people be flooding your inbox asking you for approval on small things such as color scheme or font size. Further, you will increase their productivity by allowing them to move forward on their work by removing a big bottleneck, yourself.
Stack your replies:
Each time you check your email during the day, reply to all new emails that require you to action them. This reduces the time you spend emailing and thinking about emails. Never put off a reply. There is a chance your mind will drift to that email while you are working, sapping your valuable attention.
Filter your email:
Learn to filter your email. Set up folders to filter out emails that hog your attention but are unimportant. Group discussions, TLDR, policy reminders, advertising from vendors are all prime candidates for filtering. Create folders to filters these emails to read later or send them straight to deletion.
I can’t stress how important it is to take a few minutes to set these filters up. This will drastically reduce your inbox volume. This is important because it will mean less distractions, in case you forget to close your email.
No email tag:
Eliminate the never ending email chain. If you feel like the email will devolve into a conversation, hop onto Jabber, Slack, or whatever else your organization uses to resolve it. As well, you can always call the person for 5 minutes and settle the issue.
To me, emails are a little bit frustrating. I think that the telephone is much preferred because you get the sound of the voice and the interest and everything else you can’t see in an email. — T. Boone Pickens
Reduce the chance for follow up:
Always present options to reduce the chance that a follow up email will need to be sent. When looking to set up a meeting, send over 5 different times that you can meet. This lets you avoid sending availability times again if it does not work out.
Alternatively, you can also try an automated scheduling app to really automate this process.
Options allows the person you are emailing with to reply with “Yes”, “No” or some other confirmation. Confirmations eliminate email tag and further replies.
We have no idea how much email ruins our productivity during the day. Email is a communication tool to help us be more productive. We must leverage it as such. If you fall into the trap of checking email and replying too often, email will stop serving its purpose.