Throughout the course of the day, you’re likely to get hundreds if not thousands of emails. Before you know it, your inbox looks like a disaster area. You know you need to stay on top of it or you’re likely to drown in the sea of messages. As a result you become glued to your smartphone, hoping to open, answer, forward or delete what you can to avoid the pile-up.
If there’s one thing psychologists have learned as they’ve studied human behavior, it’s that we achieve better and more excellent results when we focus. Translation – you can’t perform at your best when you are constantly distracted or drowning in email messages.
To end the fight with email, consider the following tips:
Be ruthless about what gets through your email filter. Unsubscribe from newsletters, offers, RSS feeds, etc. that don’t provide helpful information or resources. Don’t give out your email address until you know how companies intend to use your information. Also consider setting up a “junk email” that you can give to solicitors.
Build “email windows” into your schedule. These are pre-scheduled time periods you devote to composing, returning and processing email. This allows you to focus on the task at hand and do one of three things: do it, delegate it, or delete it.
Email only during the workday. The people you are corresponding with come to expect certain behavior from you. If you email back and forth after the workday is over, you’re basically telling them, “It’s ok to correspond with me afterhours.” If you want to respond to email after work hours, set the email to be delivered the next day so the timestamp remains during working hours.
Teach those around you to use a “parking lot.” Instead of firing off an email every time they have a question or comment, a “parking lot” encourages employees to keep a list of items that need to be addressed. Once that list is four or five items deep, employees can schedule a quick phone call or short meeting with you to go over the items.
Turn off email on your smartphone. Yes, it sounds crazy. But just because you get can check email on your phone doesn’t mean you should. If you find that you’re checking your email at the dinner table, the grocery store, while driving or in bed, you might be taking it too far. Try going offline with your phone for a while. You might find that you’re more focused and productive. Your family and friends will appreciate your undivided attention as well.