Question. Do you allow anyone and everyone to dictate what you work on? Is your preference to have someone prioritize which projects and tasks you complete first? Aside from interactions with your boss, I feel certain your answer is going to be, “No way!” But, if you open up your email and begin processing it first thing in the morning, this IS what you are doing.
Email Can Be A Tremendous Productivity Drain
Recent data suggests that 196 million emails are sent worldwide every minute. Some days you may feel like you’re getting half of those yourself in your inbox. As useful as it may be, email communication can be a tremendous productivity drain. What’s worse, many of us use email as a distraction to procrastinate working on a big hard to complete task. For the vast majority of us however, though we may be able to employ ways to decrease the volume of email in our lives, we cannot completely avoid it. In the past, I’ve shared with you strategies to more effectively handle email, but today I’m specifically focusing on when to process email.
Put Some Boundaries Around Your Email Behavior
We’ve all been there. We read an email and decide we need to get that task complete, or that answer out, or that supporting piece of information delivered. It may very well be important, but it isn’t what you set out to accomplish as your top priority.
I recommend you pick one to three times throughout the day to process your email. Once it becomes a routine, those you regularly work with will begin to know when to expect your email replies. Don’t train people to expect you to be available at any moment. And, if it is important and urgent, they will….get ready for it….pick up the phone and call you. I do realize there may be times where you need to check email earlier in the day. For example, if you work with others in a different time zone, you may need to check first thing in the morning for a response or for information concerning an on-going project. My suggestion is open your email and check for messages from specific people or for urgent needs or concerns, but save actual processing of all emails for your designated time. Finally, all of us will benefit from setting a time limit on email processing. Once time is up, plan to move back to your project or task list. Pick back up where you left off when it is again time to process email.
By placing boundaries around those early working hours when we are most fresh, least distracted and generally most focused, we protect our ability to accomplish what we have deemed to be the most important task(s) of the day. Conserve that prime brain power and don’t let someone else dictate your agenda.
Try It Out Tomorrow
Take a glance at your list of to-dos this evening and decide what needs to be accomplished tomorrow. Then, start your day with the important tasks right out of the gate. I predict you will be and feel more productive all day long by accomplishing the important and strategic tasks first.
Sara Genrich is an Organization and Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop. She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.