1 September 2017
How many emails do you receive every day? It must be in the hundreds if not the thousands! It’s all too easy for the constant influx of messages to not only take control of your workload, or your day, but to control how you are living your life.
So how do you make sure that email continues to help rather than hinder your progress?
You should never let an email go past one day old. Why? You don’t know what will come in the next day and you don’t want to play catch up. If you let emails build up over a couple of days, before you know it, you become overwhelmed and spend more time wading through messages than anything else.
I am getting caught out by this at the moment because I haven’t got a set routine with my PA yet. If you have got a PA or EA, I would also advise getting yourself out of the habit of looking at your emails altogether.
As a routine, I look at my emails twice a day; once in the morning, once in the evening. At these times I will run through the list of what’s come in that day and either delegate the actions, ask my PA to respond on my behalf or take on the serious matters that need my attention.
The best thing to do is to plan your day and stick to the set slots for when you can deal with emails that have come in. The faster you reply, the faster the issue is sorted!
Do not disturb
Take notifications off your phone. We live in a world where we are constantly disrupted! When was the last time you just sat and did one job without your phone buzzing, an email popping up, a tweet coming in, or the like? You are being disturbed by notifications constantly.
If you’re working on a certain schedule or task and an email comes in, it can quickly throw you off course and you end up spending the day stopping and starting multiple tasks. I am a firm believer in finishing a job once you’ve started it. As such, you should only deal with one task at a time, completing it, where possible, there and then.
Complete the job
That brings me to my next tip: once you’ve opened an email, complete it. It’s that simple. I have a folder within my inbox for anything that I don’t have time for there and then. I call it my Homework Folder and running through this is the last task of my day.
If you can do it immediately, do it. If not, work out a system to ensure you don’t have a to-do list that’s controlled by emails and other people.
Complicated emails don’t work
If you have a complex or sensitive issue, or you’ve got to challenge someone, never send an email. Messages can very easily be mixed up or misconstrued. There’s nothing worse than playing email tennis with someone because written messages can be misinterpreted very easily.
Save in drafts
Equally, if you are upset or angry about something don’t send an email the same day. If it has to be done on the same day, write something and save it in drafts. Cool off for a while, do another job, go for lunch or even sleep on it and see how you feel about it the next morning. It’s more than likely that you will have a very different perspective once you’ve taken time to cool off and your email will have a very different tone and message.
Pick up the phone
Email is no substitute for a conversation. A face-to-face conversation is invaluable especially in an office environment. It’s far too easy to send an email when you could go across the room and talk to them. We’re losing the magic of getting to know people. Go for a chat over a cup of tea rather than bouncing emails back and forth, the outcome will be far greater.
Last but not least: Don’t let emails rule your life. It’s very important to switch off. Tech like email was invented to simplify our lives but, in reality, it stretches the hours that we work. We switch off less and subsequently, there’s more stress. Ultimately we are all working harder and smarter than ever before and there’s more and more pressure. We have got to have time to switch off.
In our home, we leave phones downstairs. I have an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake me up instead. It’s healthy to move away from the constant stream of notifications and let your brain rest. The worst thing you can do is look at emails just before going to bed because it produces hormones that wake you up immediately.
I am also a great believer in getting home, finishing what I need to do and switching all devices off. This means I can spend uninterrupted, quality time with my family.
I’d love to know how you manage your email inbox? Do you have rules or just let it run wild?