eMail Productivity 101: Eliminate, Automate, Delegate, and Fixate
- Limit the number of times you check your email each day to four to six times. For most, this is easier said than done. So think about it this way, if you check your email 15 times in an 8-hour day, you’re interrupting your focus every 32 minutes.
- Shut off any news, instant messaging service or email notification. The notices that appear in the lower corner of your computer screen are like toddlers pulling at your pant leg. They continue to beg for your attention until you stop what you’re doing and turn to them. Interruptions lower productivity levels and email is no exception. Studies suggest that it may take as long as 16 minutes to recover from an interruption.
Reducing email scan frequency and eliminating notifications can add a couple productive hours to your day–That is like working an extra day every week.
- Get rid of SPAM before you open your inbox. Every quarter I go through an email cleanup cycle to identify time wasters that creep into my inbox. I am a big fan of a program called UnrollMe that not only automatically delete emails that you no longer wish to receive but also, organizes emails that you want into a single digest email.
- Set up rules to presort your email. You can dump all of the emails that you were cc’d on into a folder. Highlight emails from your boss, suppliers, family, etc. separate folders and batch process them. I also use and recommend another automation tool called sanebox that will also manage SPAM as well as provide additional horsepower to drive automation. (It’s not free, but neither is your time!)
Although many “email experts” do not recommend checking email first thing, I still do. I spend the first 15-20 minutes of each day to skimming my inbox. I want to make sure things requiring someone else’s attention get off my plate and available for them to schedule as quickly as possible. My other objective is to review and make decisions on all other emails quickly. My options include; Delete, Forward, Save, File, Schedule an appointment or create a task for future attention. Note: The presorted folders outlined above make this an efficient task.
Many physiology experts believe interval training allows yields better results in less time. I’m convinced this is true for knowledge workers. I strongly recommend you work in designated high intensity and recovery intervals. I set aside one or two focused intervals to address emails daily. I use and recommend an app called 52/17. It is a Pomodoro timer that sets aside 52 minutes for focused activity followed by a 17-minute recovery cycle. After several cycles, the program will schedule a 30-minute rest period. You may find 52 minutes too long to focus. Don’t give up, use the more traditional 25 minutes of focus and five-minute cycles built into the timer.
Researchers continue to report the nature sounds and other ambient background noise facilitate concentrations. Focus@Will provides the soundtrack for my intervals.