Email and mobile devices that allow us to access it were intended to help us work smarter, but for an increasing number of people, email has become the work. David delves into the detail.
Email, to coin a phrase, is the drug of the working nation. I meet hundreds of people every year who are hooked on it or locked in a prison-like relationship with it. They have given up… for them there is no escape. Their inbox is their ‘to-do’ list. It grabs their constant attention even at weekends and when on holiday because they ‘don’t want to deal with the backlog when they return’. They ‘copy all’ and save copies to protect themselves and prove the value they add.
According to Internet Live Stats, 2.7 million legitimate emails are sent every second worldwide. That equates to over 30 emails for every person on earth, every day, and the average US white-collar worker spends 5.4 hours each workday on email. So, what do you do if you are in email jail?
Here are five steps that really work for me. Helpfully (and completely accidentally!) they all start with the same letter so are easier to remember.
- Diarise – decide on a time of day to deal with your inbox that best suits you. Pick a time that you can dedicate uninterrupted ‘email time’ to. Now, turn off all the alerts and notifications and only look at your inbox at the allotted time and for the amount of time that you had planned. If you’re really daring on this one, you could even set your automatic replies to state that you only review emails at a certain time every day
- Delete – your next task is to take a quick scan of your inbox and immediately delete any email (without opening it fully) that isn’t urgent or important, in the pursuit of living your life and fulfilling your role
- Delegate – now it’s to take a more detailed look at the remainder of the emails in your inbox that should or could be dealt with more effectively by someone else
- Deal – OK, so we’re at step four and you should allow a chunk of your allocated time to respond to/action any emails that are easy (meaning it will take a maximum of a few minutes) to deal with now
- Defer – the final step (before you close your inbox until the next day’s diarised time) is to review the remaining emails and schedule time to deal with them. If you estimate that any of the remaining emails will take more than a few minutes, then block out the required amount of time in your diary and save the email in the appointment (so removing it from your inbox)
Have a go at the above and let me know how you get on. Also, remember that you too are a contributor to other people’s inboxes and try to cut down what you send. If this all works for you as it works for me, you will start to notice a few things:
• the less you send, the less you receive
• the more you apply the five steps, the more people tend to figure stuff out themselves without feeling the need to email you
• the less you allow email to distract you throughout the day, the more productive you become generally