The second incarnation of my blog
One personal discipline I am aiming to achieve is control over emails. There are plenty of techniques about filtering emails and keeping an ordered inbox and I have yet to master these, but give me time. I sort of miss the days when you actually spoke to people to ask them a question or even sent a memo. A piece of paper meant it was really important! Yes, I’m that old.
There are some good podcasts by Get It Done Guy who talks about dealing with email overload and in one, suggests that when you go on holiday, your out of office reply should read:
I am on holiday. All emails received between 1st and 14th will be deleted on my return. If your enquiry is urgent, email [colleague’s name] now or send again after the 14th.
Bosses around the UK would read that, go pale and issue a serious
memo email banning this tactic. I think it’s a bit extreme, though it does sound rather pleasant as I recall my inbox crammed with 607 messages when I returned from my last 2 week holiday, including one that said my inbox was “almost full”.
One approach that I have adopted is to avoid opening work email for the first 30-45 minutes of the day (if I am not travelling to an appointment) to avoid being distracted. This means that I can deal with truly urgent work and, as I usually start work before 8am, it won’t usually affect anyone else’s business day. It’s amazing what you can get done when your brain isn’t sidetracked.
One method I would like to attempt is recommended by many top professionals: You only check email 2 or 3 times a day and when you do, only deal with critical enquiries immediately and leave the rest until later.
This can be a difficult one to maintain as we are now conditioned to check emails constantly and feel a need to respond as quickly as possible. In reality, most enquiries are not urgent and the only thing you may need to do is educate clients so that if the query is really pressing, they call and speak to me or leave a message. Otherwise, they can expect a response within 24 hours.
This email down time may not go appeal to some bosses, especially when working in a service industry. But think how much more you can achieve when you are not constantly checking and replying to emails?!
Carefully consider the emails you respond to today. How many could/should have waited until you had more time? How many times did you check the inbox? How many times did you reply to something that was low priority? How many times were you copied in to something that was irrelevant?
Answers on a postcard please, in the comments box or an email if you must.
[Originally posted on LinkedIn]