How Not to Become a Slave to your Email

By Bonita Matushewski

We have all done this: as soon as your phone chimes, you grab it like it’s a baby falling off a chair, and immediately check the email that just came in. Some of us are even check emails in the middle of our sleep because the sound wakes us up! This is not a good habit, for many reasons.

To learn how not to become a slave to your email, try a few of these suggestions:

1. Schedule times in your calendar for checking emails.

I personally schedule an hour when I get into the office, an hour after lunch, and then half an hour around 4 pm. I keep all Notifications turned off on my phone, to minimize distraction.

2. Develop your own process that will allow for an efficient use of time.

If you schedule for an hour in the morning to check your emails, you know that sometimes one email can take that whole hour. If an email does require more than five minutes, then that task can be recorded on a to-do list and scheduled for later (the iPad has great apps for this). If responding takes less than five minutes then do so immediately and move to the next one.

When you are done with your emails then you move into working on your to-do list.

3.  Set your standard response time and communicate it often.

Let your clients and colleagues know your standard response time. A good rule of thumb is to respond within 24 hours. However, encourage them to call if there is an emergency. A text can also be good for a high priority item.

4.  Know when a call is necessary.

A standard should also be set to determine the use of email versus the telephone. If it is going to take you ten minutes to type the email, it will take others double the time to figure out what you are saying.  For those ten-minutes-or-more emails, pick up the phone instead. The phone call will be more efficient.

Granted, some people like and sometimes need the paper trail, so if this is the case, send a quick summary email after the call, but do it immediately after and highlight actions only, do not turn it into meeting minutes.