Does this sound familiar? You check your email because you’re planning to get some work done. Forty minutes later, you’re looking at cat videos on Facebook. Now I’m not judging, because I think the world needs more cat videos (only slightly kidding) but your plan was to get some work done.
I used to read a hundred emails a day, more on Mondays. No joke. They weren’t all mine, but reading all of them was a core part of my job. I’m here to share my tips on how to stay up to speed on emails AND get other work done.
How to be (at least) twice as efficient on email
- Be mindful of the time you want to spend on email per day. Let’s say it’s an hour. Divide that time into two, so in this example, 30″ per session.
- Time it. Look at the clock before you begin.
- Be ready for work. I keep a journal at hand to jot down To Dos and notes. For emails that contained materials for printing, I print them immediately after reading the email.
- Now go through your email. Here’s the important part: do this only once. Decide after you’ve read the email what you’re going to do with it: read / respond / pay / file / print / flag for more work / delete. Tip: If you are someone who gets a lot of reading material sent to your Inbox, then adjust your time spent on email to mindfully include time for reading.
- Once you’re read all of your new email, close down your Inbox. I’d even go so far as to disable your email alerts because they are irresistibly distracting.
- Now do some work.
- Two hours before the end of your working day, repeat this process.
- At the end of the day, make a brief list of To Dos for the next day.
- Once a week, review your SENT items. There will be a lot less to review in your SENT box than your Inbox (unless you are a prolific emailer), and you will be reminded of what you promised to do, and what you did the past week. This is a such a simple way to stay on top of things, and impress people with your organizational skills.
There are a few takeaways here:
- If you review your emails only once, you will be at least twice as efficient. I once learned speed reading, and the core lesson is the same: read everything just once.
- If you close your Inbox, you will not be distracted by incoming emails.
- Most emails are not so important that you must respond within a few hours. People will resort to texting or calling if they need you that badly.
- By dealing with your emails twice a day, you will set up an efficient system that allows you to both stay on top of your Inbox while also actually getting work done.
- I am a strong believer in the idea that we teach others how we want to be treated. If you teach your email correspondents that you are always instantly available by email, you have given them control over your life.
Oh, and that job I mentioned? My email review process was roughly 2-3 hours every weekday following a weekend; then 90-100″/day throughout the week. If I had been away on holidays, my email review consumed roughly my entire first day back at work.
I share this so that you can see why I had to come up with a process just to keep up with my email! I hope you find it helpful. I’d love to hear what you do to tame your time-sucking Inbox.