E-mail is here to stay. And the amount of the e-mail we all receive is steadily increasing. With the average professional receiving between 80 and 100 e-mails every day, it can be a real challenge to not only manage all those e-mails, but to stay current. It is an even bigger challenge to be able to do these things in what we used to define as the normal work day.
Unfortunately, many people have gotten into the habit of “saving” their e-mail for their quiet time — before work, during lunch, after the office closes, or weekends. While this practice may be appropriate in exceptional circumstances, too many people have incorporated these personal times into their regular workdays. Now people are finding that they are spending more and more time each day working as e-mail is extending their workload by as much as two hours.
If you find yourself suffering from e-mail overload and staying at the office later than intended, here are some time-saving tips.
Reduce the number of times you check for new e-mail. Constantly checking for new e-mails and responding to them immediately actually results in decreased productivity. Therefore, we recommend checking no more than five times daily. Morning, midmorning, after lunch, mid afternoon, and before the end of the workday. Tell people that if they need you urgently, to please call.
Incorporate e-mail sorting into your day. You cannot avoid e-mail but by sorting, prioritizing, and planning specific times in your day (not after work or on the weekends) to conquer the e-mailed tasks, you will set the stage for getting out of the office earlier.
Differentiate between “sorting” and “handling” e-mail. Too many people confuse these two actions. It is important that you go into your e-mail a few times daily and sort the newly received items. Note: sort does not mean work.
The two-minute limit: One exception to the sort versus work rule is if you can accomplish the task in the e-mail within two minutes, do it! If not, file it in an appropriate folder to be viewed when you are planning your priorities for the day.
Set a regular time, once daily, to plan your work for the day. This allotted time is when you go into your sorted e-mail to determine its priority in relation to other projects, telephone calls, meetings, and assigned work. Most people do this in the morning. By setting a regular time daily you will be assured of working the e-mails you receive in the proper priority.
Control your e-mail, don’t let it control you: Turn off automatic send and receive and check your e-mail on your own time. Don’t let the e-mail “ding” pull you away from the work you are already doing.
By taking ownership of your e-mail, reducing the number of times you check your e-mail daily, separating the sort and work functions of your e-mail, and incorporating the work delivered by e-mail into the planning of your workday, you will be able to reclaim that extra time, and get out of the office earlier — every day!
Do you have a trick or rule that you use to control your email?
Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC, is CEO of the Egan Group, Inc. An ICF Certified Professional Coach, she is a leading authority on email productivity. She works with companies who want to recover lost time and money due to wasteful email practices. Assess your emailing habits and find great tips on how to manage your email at http://InboxDetox.com.