There are few things in the online life of most people that take as much time as email. Many people, if not most, feel overwhelmed by email.
Don’t get me wrong, I love email. Or, more accurately, I love the email I want.
As you might imagine, I sign up for a lot of lists. Part of my work is keeping up with what is happening in my community (Internet marketing) and I love hearing from customers and friends.
But it’s all too easy to dread logging in to the computer because of the hundreds of emails that flood in to my inbox every day.
So I took action some time ago and began using four ways to control email that really work.
Here are my big four. I hope they work for you too.
Check email only after accomplishing your #1 task
We all come into the day with things to do, hopes for how those things will go and the need to be productive.
I used to start my day checking email, but not any more. What I do now is focus on my #1 priority and then check email when it is done.
I’m writing this article, for example, before checking email.
Why check email only after you have crossed off that high-value task? Here are my personal reasons.
- Email puts me in a position to respond to other peoples’ priorities, not to focus on my own. To be productive I need focus.
- Some email can be disturbing, upsetting or aggravating. I hate spam and get more than my share. Frustrating.
- Scanning hundreds of emails clutters my mind. We all fall prey to this. We scan our inbox to see what needs attention now. It’s like trying to find a needle in an haystack and, frankly, exhausting.
It is so much better to process email than to scan it. It takes time to develop the habit of seeing every email only once, but it can be a life saver once you learn how it’s done.
Check email twice a day
I believe most of us will be more productive checking email twice a day – once in the late morning, after you have accomplished your high-priority tasks, and once at the end of the day.
Checking, and processing, your email twice a day ensures that nothing falls through the cracks.
Replying to email in the late morning gives people time to respond to your message the same day, in most cases.
If something is truly urgent then by all means, reply immediately. But very few emails we receive rise to that level.
If your job requires you to check email more often that is a different matter.
For most people, twice a day is plenty.
Choose when to reply
This is the big one. Not all email needs an immediate reply. It took me years to learn this.
It’s common sense really. How many of us have fired off an email and wished we had thought our reply through better? I know I have.
Here is how I process email and choose when I want to reply.
- I created an email folder called @Replies
- As I process my inbox I either delete email or move it to @Replies
- At the end of the day I reply to every email in @Replies, if I am ready to reply. Some replies take more thought.
I do the same thing with emails I want to read later.
- I created an email folder called @Reading
- As I process my inbox I move email I want read later to @Reading
- At the end of the day I read the email in @Reading. If I don’t read them all toady I get them tomorrow. Email in @Reading is not urgent.
Of all the things I’ve tried over the years, choosing when I wanted to respond has been the most life changing. It has helped me do a better job of replying well and created more peace of mind as well.
Turn off all alerts
Because you know you will check email twice a day, and because you value focus and uninterrupted time to work, you don’t need all the little dings and dongs that tell you an email has arrived.
I have turned them all off.
- On my computer
- On my iPad
- On my phone
And I mean all of them. That includes:
- Badges (the little number next to the icon for your email app)
- Notifications (that little text that appears on your screen for an instant)
- Because I’m on a Mac, I have removed email from my Notification Center too.
I want to say again – I love email. I love email marketing and make my living when people read and respond to my email. So this is not one of those “email is dead” or “I hate email” messages.
Far from it.
What I’m really saying is this – if you love getting the email you want (like I do) then give these four tips a try.
When I did them email became fun again. Email become welcome again. Email became profitable again.
And those are all beautiful things indeed!