email-time-distractionMany folks complain about how e-mail takes up all of their time – it interrupts them, prevents them from getting concentrated work complete, and sucks up all their time.

I used to be no different – until I got fed up with being in e-mail hell, and figured out a way to get out of it. There are several techniques that I’ll list here – figure out the ones that work for YOU, and implement them immediately.

The list, in no particular order (other than the order I thought of them), are:

– the unsubscribe feature on company emails. Do you get daily coupons from a pizza joint, weekly sales notifications from your favorite clothing store, or other emails that take up your time? If so, scroll to the bottom and follow the instructions to unsubscribe. Getting rid of these once and for all, rather than deleting them without reading, will eventually clear out some of the clutter you see when reviewing unread emails.

– don’t reply if you don’t have to. Sending an email with “thanks”, or “got it”, or even “OK”, unless specifically requested, or in recognition of someone else going above and beyond for you, is unnecessary; and worse, clutters up THEIR email box! However, if someone does you a favor that would be nice to acknowledge, write them a thank-you note by all means…

– set aside “no email” time. I leave email processing for when I’m done with a chunk of a big project, when I’ve completed a couple of blog posts, when I need a break from writing a report, etc. I DON’T have an email flag that pops up every time I get an email; I DON’T check my email every 30 minutes (unless I want a headache that day); and I DON’T live on my email account unless I need to (a client and I are conversing back and forth, exchanging documents, etc.)

– schedule your “email” time. When consulting with execs to streamline their day and help them to become more efficient, we start with two basic things – interruptions, and emails. (Interruptions will be a separate blog post at a later date…) when we cover email, I ask them when they REALLY need to look at emails, and the most common times are:

  • at the start of the business day
  • right before lunch
  • right after lunch, to check for afternoon info
  • before going home
  • (unfortunately) at home that evening

So, if I can get the exec to commit to ONLY looking at emails these 4-5 times, for a few days, they invariably report that they had been more productive since they handle emails in batch vs continuous mode, and they subsequently had more time available to get other things accomplished. One fun way to do this is to play the E-Mail Game, which lets you see how long you are spending on each email and provides points and timing – to make it fun. It’s also very helpful in getting emails out of your inbox, since you can ‘boomerang’ something out for a set amount of time rather than leaving it there (and potentially overlooking it).

There are tips galore on the web about handling emails; these are the ones that most of my clients find to be the tops for getting them sprung from email hell.

Any tips to add? Inquiring minds want to know!

More email handling tips from Denise OBerry: