Everyone knows the benefits of email. It’s easy, quick, global, easily stored, it allows you time to think before you speak, but is it also a distraction?
I can’t tell you how many times I have been working on a project when that little “you have mail” screen pops up. Hmmm-Is there an important message in there? Is it something more important than what I’m currently working on? What if it’s a new client? There’s no way to know until I check those messages! This is when I run into my dilemma. Do I check, or do I finish what I’m working on? I used to always check, you never know, there could be a life changing email in there. . . ok, that’s a little extreme. More often than not it’s just another “urgent” message about getting cheap drugs or that now infamous little blue pill. By checking my messages I have not only interrupted the flow of what I was doing, but I have wasted precious time. I feel like I should keep working, but I just can’t contain the curiosity to see what has come to my inbox; and it seems I’m not alone.
In the ClearContext 2006 Email Usage Survey 41% of the respondents stated they are checking their email “constantly”. In fact, they found that even though we are getting the same amount of email as last year we are spending more time managing the email we get. They also found that 25% of the people responding to the survey are spending 4 or more hours every day managing email. That’s half the work day! How are you expected to get anything else done when email is taking up half of your day?
I asked myself the very same question and came up with a few strategies that can easily be implemented to keep your email under control and help you better manage your workday, while still staying in contact with clients, and feeling like you accomplished something by the end of the day.
The first thing is to stop checking your email as soon as you start work. I know it seems impossible, but it will wait. Spend the first hour of your day getting small tasks completed. After the first hour go ahead and check your messages, even if you get wrapped up in your email you will have already accomplished something.
Turn off your email notification. GASP! This works too. Without the notification screen popping up every few minutes you will be able to focus on the task at hand. How do you know if someone has sent you an email? That’s the third step.
Set up a schedule to check your email, and an amount of time you are willing to spend on it. It could be at the top of the hour for 15 minutes, every two hours or maybe only once or twice a day for an hour at a time. Whatever works for you. By implementing even one of these suggestions you will be able to gain control of your email management. You will be less distracted by your email, and last but not least, your clients will still have your attention, and you will still have your sanity.