How much time do you spend checking emails?
If you answered “a lot”, you’re almost right.
On average, we spend 2.5 hours a day in our inbox every day.
Assuming we don’t check emails during the weekend…THAT’S STILL OVER 28 DAYS A YEAR. It’s like spending an entire month in your inbox without ever stopping to eat, sleep, or take a break.
That is A LOT.
And this doesn’t even factor in the cost of each distraction: every time our attention slips, it takes an average 23 minutes to get back in the zone. Now we’re spending two months doing emails.
Your email inbox can be a dangerous time-sucking vortex, full of tasks disguised as messages and excuses to procrastinate.
Have you ever spent hours replying to emails, only to feel like you didn’t get anything done by the end of the day?
I sure have felt like that too many times, taking care of everybody else’s priorities but my own.
Here are the 7 principles I use to cut my email time to less than a third, and make sure that I do work that matters every day:
Set your priorities before checking your emails.
As soon as you open your inbox, you’re going to be hit by a flood of requests. Most emails are actually a task: do this, check this out, send me this piece of information, read this.
Before you start taking care of someone else’s priorities, make sure you set your own.
Take a small piece of paper, and write down three objectives for the day. Get the most important one done before entering your emails.
Multitasking is a lie. All the human brain can handle is quickly switching between tasks, a poor use of your cognitive resources. Have you ever texted while brushing your teeth? You can never be sure you’ve cleaned all your teeth. Do not do multitask.
Focus on emails, and get it done, then close emails and move on to something else. You will write better emails in less time.
No more emails before bed.
If you check emails late at night, you are ruining your quality of sleep. And it’s not just the blue light.
You are jumpstarting your brain right before you should let it rest. The thoughts will continue in the background even if you close your inbox. It’s like Pandora’s box. Don’t open it.
No more emails right after bed.
If you check emails first thing in the office or, even worse, first thing after waking up, stop.
Checking emails straight out of bed set you right up for a morning shock and scrambles your own priorities. Maybe you should check principle number one again!
Turn notifications off.
Nothing is that urgent. Especially nothing that comes via email. Notifications put someone else’s priorities before your own, and interrupt your day curbing your concentration and focus.
Reply to all your emails at once instead of one at a time, using batching to reduce the overall time spent on tasks.
Don’t be afraid to let several hours (yes, even a day!) pass between checking times. Just let people know what to expect: be transparent about your email policy and follow a set schedule.
Stop sending one-liners.
No more lazy one liners that will start an endless back-and-forth asking for clarifications.
Write emails with the other person in mind. Recap previous emails. Give extra details and suggestions. Imagine their questions and answer them.
Empower them, and they won’t need to send you yet another email.
The phone is your friend.
Never turn emails into a chat: some things are better done over the phone.
If something requires more than two emails, pick up the phone.
A two-minute call can avoid two days of back-and-forth and will allow you to get one thing done and out of your mind.
Follow these 8 principles, and you will finally have the time and energy to work towards your own objectives and…take a break from time to time.
Enjoy your extra time!
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Author: Matt Sandrini
Matt writes about productivity and mindful habits on timezillionaire.com Download the free ebook "Mindful Inbox" at timezillionaire.com/mindfulinbox