When was the last time you checked your email?
If that question made you glance at your phone or open your email client, then I can safely say you are addicted to your email. How do I know? Because I fight the same problem.
Email is the cornerstone to digital communication. Just think about it. How long have you had your primary email address? Most likely, it has been years. When I stop to think about it, I have had the same Gmail address for a decade or more now. Before Gmail, it was a hotmail account for the same period of time. That is 20 years of email!
But, here is the point. Communication via email has become so entangled in our daily lives, for so long, that we forget that it is not our only means of communication. Instead, we obsess over email and anticipate the next delivery to our inbox in order to feel a false sense of accomplishment. It is a lie that you must break free from in order to save yourself now and in the future.
Here is how you drop the addiction and get your life, and business, back:
Unsubscribe from the unimportant
You can’t possibly need all of those emails.
If you avoided your inbox for a week, what would you expect to see when you returned? Chances are you would spend more time sorting through newsletters, daily deals, and more just to find genuine emails from individuals and groups you truly want to communicate with. On a daily basis, you are likely to be eliminating these unwanted emails routinely to reduce inbox clutter. Again, this mindless task is giving you a false sense of accomplishment.
You could click on the mandatory “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of each email, but that may take time and keep you in your inbox longer than is necessary. A great alternative is the service Unroll.me. This service will scan your email account to find all of the subscription based email you receive and give you a list with 2 options. You can easily go down the list and unsubscribe from all of your unwanted emails, or you can have all of these emails collected and delivered in one email.
Emergencies don’t happen via email
Your phone will start ringing.
The biggest excuse you can tell yourself is that emails are urgent and time sensitive. Think of it this way, if there was a fire, would you email the fire department? No, you would pick up the phone and call emergency services. When emergencies happen, people pick up the phone. Your customers and clients will do the same thing.
If you need more proof, think about email historically. How many emails that were supposed to get to your inbox never made it? How many emails that you have sent never reached the person you sent it to? Even today, email can still be unreliable. IT and server administrators are gatekeepers for email communication, and if they are doing their job well, the are critical of all email coming through to prevent spam. This sometimes can mean they stop legitimate emails from reaching their destination. When it comes to emergencies, email is not where you are going to be notified.
Limit the times you view your inbox
Desktop and mobile devices.
This is a big step. You may be used to checking your email inbox every 5 minutes, so limiting yourself to only a handful of times each day is going to be a major difference. What you get out of the change is a sense of focus and clarity. When you free your mind from the burden of a constant source of distraction, you really begin to feel the freedom and a surge of energy to be productive.
Stop checking your email first thing in the morning and replace it with preparing for your day. That means you decide what needs to get accomplished, not your inbox. Open your inbox later in the morning, after you have already accomplished several tasks. You are then prepared for whatever tasks your inbox may reveal.
Get in and get out
Reply, Forward, or Delete
When the time comes to open your email, do it quickly and efficiently. You want to avoid leaving the inbox open for an extended period of time. If you do, you will begin to anticipate the next delivery. This waiting game will waste your time. When it is time to open your email, quickly respond to messages. If you find yourself writing longer than a 3 sentence email, stop and pickup the phone instead.
DO NOT use your inbox as a task list. It is called an inbox, not a “hold on to it until it is done” box. Any tasks that you need to complete from an email need to be moved to a task list that is completely separate from your email. Yes, that means Outlook, Gmail, etc. that bundle task lists are not what you are looking for. You are better off with a pen and paper to create your task lists. The convenience of an integrated task list is a trade off for the bad habit of email obsession.
Put it in your schedule
When you were checking your email every 5 minutes, email was your schedule. Now that you have time in your day to get things done, let’s schedule time for the inbox. I like to check my email twice a day, for no more than 30 minutes each time. It wasn’t as simple as pointing at my calendar and saying “email goes here!”
Take a moment and look at the times you see the bulk of your email arriving. If you can identify when those times are, you can give yourself a schedule to check email after these bulk arrivals, but don’t make it more than 5 times a day or else you will fall prey to the inbox addiction. I found that late morning and late afternoon work best for my own schedule and I get everything else done during the rest of the day.
A great feature for sending email is automating it to fit your schedule. Here is an example. It is late in the day and you need to send out email responses, but you don’t want to get immediate responses. What do you do? You schedule the email to be sent early the next morning. The ability to do this is not a standard feature for most email clients. I am able to do this in Google Apps for Work – Gmail by adding the Chrome extension called Streak. Another great option for Gmail is the service Boomerang. Newer versions of Microsoft Outlook are also capable of scheduled send.
Let someone else do the checking
Make it someone else’s job.
If you have the luxury of an assistant, or you are in the financial position to bring on an assistant, a great task to delegate is email management. Your assistant can keep your inbox clean and free of unwanted emails, respond to low level inquires, and coordinate with you on higher level ones. When it comes to task management from email, you can give your assistant instructions on how to translate tasks from the email to the task list, as well as how to prioritize.
Having two sets of eyes on email and a shared responsibility can ease some of the burden of the email, but you must be strict in how your assistant manages and spends time on it. Email is addicting to everyone, and the last thing you need is two people addicted to your inbox.
So, to recap email, you need to spend some time away from it to get to know you again. When you are in your inbox, remove yourself from as many subscriptions as possible, respond to messages quickly or pick up the phone and call, and stay out of the inbox until it is time to get back in.
It all comes down to self discipline to avoid the addiction and to create the productive routine of scheduled email management. Your goal should be to remove the ball and chain of email and get time and energy back into your life and business.
How can you save time with your email?
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