Go on then it is time for a little honesty, just how often does your in-box tiger force you to check your email? Twice a day? Hourly? Every few minutes? Or is it every time it roars and that little word “unread” notification pops up on your screen?
When you are already suffering from email overload, that little word can indeed seem like a large roar that can make you super unproductive and has to ability to drive you to distraction. But with a little discipline on your part and a cunning plan you can become a Tiger Tamer and tame that email tiger once and for all and regain your sanity at the same time.
Be more productive with better email settings
Firstly, those of you who are addicted to checking your email five minutes, be honest is it really necessary? But don’t feel bad if you do, you are forced into it by the email tiger it is usually defaulted to roar every five minutes, but it can be tamed. Why not set your email tiger to grab email when you tell it to (on demand), meaning if you don’t tell your emails to download they won’t. This option can usually be found in the tools/send and receive options in most email programs.
If you are scarred of the tiger and can’t (or won’t) rely on manually downloading emails, at least turn silence its roar by turning of the “unread” notification. By doing this you will not rush to the tiger every time it roars, even when you’re up to your eyes in other important work.
In an ideal world, you should only check emails three times a day: morning, afternoon, and at the end of the day, and I can hear you all saying that’s not enough, but imagine you are with a client negotiating that multi million pound contract, would you check it then!!! But when you check your email you then have to “process” them at the same time. Don’t leave them in you in-box to answer later, which defeats the whole purpose.
Process email in a systematic way
What do you do when the tiger roars and forces you to visit you in-box? Most people, browse the subject lines, open the interesting ones, and decide what they will do with it and then move on to the next.
By doing this you are wasting time as you end up opening and making decisions about the same emails repeatedly, every time you open at your in-box. You have to start doing things differently!
David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done” recommends a triage approach to email that leaves your in-box empty every time you look at it. Here’s how it works.
For every email you open, decide if it requires action or not. If not, either file it, if required later or delete it. If action is needed – whether it’s a to-do item or simply needs an answer, make one of three choices: do it now if it will take you no longer than two minutes, plan to do it later, if it is going to take longer than two minutes, or delegate someone else to do it.
If it’s only going to take two minutes, do it and delete the email. If it will take longer than that, add it to your action list for later, and then delete the email. If you want someone else to do it, forward it to them.
Regardless of the choice you make, the email does not sit in your in-box . It’s filed, done, or added to an action list (yours or someone else’s).
If you follow that process every time the tiger forces you to open your in-box you’ll never again have to face the clutter of an overflowing in-box .
Be warned it will take time and discipline to become a tiger tamer, but the results will be worth it. You will no longer stress over emails, and the days of searching for an email you’ve read before but failed to act on will be over. It’s worth the time it will take to re-train yourself in how you deal with email but if you are prepared to do it you will tame that tiger.
Till Next Time
Mike Gardner – The Time Doctor