Do you find yourself switching from your current task to read an email every time you see that familiar “You’ve got mail” message on your computer screen? How much time per day do you spend checking email; 1, 2, 3 hours per day or more? Do you keep your email program open all day just in case you get an ‘important’ email?
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. I find myself constantly switching from the important task I am working on to check an email as soon as it comes in. In fact I sometimes read emails while talking on the phone and to co-workers. The other day I got so bothered by it I decided to do something about it.
“According to Web-monitoring firm Pingdom estimates that in 2009, 90 trillion e-mails, or 247 billion email messages a day, made their way through cyberspace. And those figures are only expected to grow. “
-ABC News / Technology
Multi-tasking can lead to lower quality of work. In fact, research shows when we multi-task, we use lower levels of brain power to accomplish each task, the more distractions and task-switching the less brain power is used to complete each task. Research also shows, focusing on one task at a time, produces much higher quality of work and individuals to accomplish goals faster.
So, how do you produce higher quality work and finally eliminate the distractions of email or, or at least reduce them to a manageable level? Try these 7 steps to eliminate your email avalanche of distraction:
- Use spam blockers. Setup your spam filters and then check your spam folder once per day to be sure you didn’t miss an important email. If you find a legitimate email that was marked as spam, add that person’s email to your safe sender, or whitelist.
- Prioritize and filter Incoming messages. If your work environment allows it, don’t check your email all the time. Adjust your settings so that email messages only come through once every 30 minutes or every hour.
- Use filters to organize email. All modern email programs allow you to filter and tag messages based on various rules that you define. You can often move emails to their own folders, therefore reducing email management time.
- Setup project-specific email accounts. Use your favorite web based email program like gmail.com, yahoo.com or hotmail.com for each niche or subject. Check these email accounts once or twice per week, on a scheduled basis, based on the level of activity necessary to maintain contact.
- Brutally unsubscribe to all of the newsletters and email lists that do not support your primary goals. If you find yourself often deleting a newsletter email rather than reading it, then it is time to re-evaluate whether or not you should be a subscriber. Hit the unsubscribe button relentlessly.
- 6. Turn off the “You’ve Got Mail” feature of your email software. Face it, very few messages require you instant, real-time attention!
- Send effective emails.Emails should be brief, not a novel! When sending email you should:
- Summarize all of your key points in to one succinct email
- Keep emails short and punchy
- Include bullets whenever possible to keep them that way
- Do not include unnecessary details
- Only cc people if they are required to take action not cover you A#@
- If you can’t easily summarize an email, send an email to make a phone appointment
I promised 7 steps to eliminate your email avalanche of distraction, but I could not resist adding two more productivity tips! Separate your personal email from your business email. Most businesses with more than a few employees have a policy against using corporate email systems for personal use any way. Go ahead, bite-the-bullet and setup a personal email account and tell your friends to start sending email there instead. Your boss will be happy with your increased productivity, and if you are the boss, you will get more work done in less time, which is good news for everyone.
Finally, block time to read and respond to emails. For example, 15 min in the morning, 15 min before lunch 15 min after lunch and 15 at the end of the day this equals 1 hour per day! Some email programs allow you to flag emails for future follow-up. If you can’t respond right away, use this feature to remind yourself later. I have a bad habit of checking email first thing and it often gets me off track from my high value tasks I should be working on. By blocking my time for emails (and other high-value tasks), I find I am no longer am a prisoner to the email avalanche of distraction.