I find the single biggest time suck of my day is email. I know this to be true and I’ve tried several things to control the beast that is my inbox. It’s a huge part of my job (I get 200+ emails a day that demand action on my part) and I can’t just totally let it go. And yet I continue to struggle to keep the email in it’s proper place in my overall plan. I’m magnetically drawn to click on that little envelope icon in my dock.
So, here are 2 strategies that have helped me in my quest to be more productive:
1) When I start my day, I check my emails, just to be sure there are no fires that need to be put out. I allow myself about 20 minutes to respond to various emails that are top priority.
Then, I move away from email and work on my highest priority item for 90 minutes. I keep this time sacred so that I can get as much done as possible. I don’t take calls or instant messages and I never schedule meetings during this window.
Often, spending this time has helped me make great progress on that one important task. It always shocks me how much I can get done in 90 undistracted minutes. After that, whatever the day brings is fine because I moved forward on my most important item on my list.
2) In order to fight distraction, I’ve set the preferences on my email program (Apple Mail) so that the “unread messages count” does NOT appear in my dock. (How to: Mail: Preferences: General: Dock Unread Count: Set to “none”)
The emails still come in, but I can ignore them much more easily when that little red number isn’t there visually screaming at me. (It goes without saying that I’ve also disabled any audio reminders that email has come in.)
Sure, email’s still a time suck, but it’s not like I’m going to stop using it. The best I can do is to try to control it, rather than it controlling me. Do you have any email control strategies to share? I’d love to hear them!