Are you one of the many individuals who find that reading and replying to emails take a lot of your work time? Are you feeling that attending to emails make you a less productive person? Here's an article from Forbes listing five tips for you to better manage your emails. Try it out, it might just work out for you. (The link to the original article is included at the bottom of this post.)
By: Rasmus Hougaard
It's January, and we are all returning to work and to endless flows of emails.
Doctors now estimate that over 11 million Americans suffer from â€œemail addiction.â€ Email addiction is similar to any other type of addiction. When you receive a grateful message from a client, praise from your boss, or an interesting article, your brain releases dopamine â€“ a hormone that makes you feel good. Itâ€™s similar to playing a slot machine. Every time you pull the lever, you get a quick hit of dopamine as a reward. Craving this reward makes it almost impossible to avoid checking email whenever you hear a buzz, ding, or other email notification.
For 10 years my colleagues and myself have helped managers and executives be more effective and more mindful in managing emails. I would like to share the five most important things you can do to truly change your email habits and free up time to do more important things.
In the first half of the morning, the brain is generally most alert, focused, and creative. While many people open their email first thing in the morning, thatâ€™s not the best use of this period of exceptional focus and creativity.
Opening your email first thing in the morning immediately draws you into an onslaught of short-term problems. As your brain adapts to the pace of email, your early morning creative energy dissipates. Choosing email as your first task of the day can be a wasted opportunity to use your mind for more important work, like strategic planning. Instead, try waiting at least half an hour to an hour after you get to work before checking your inbox.
Having your email always on, even if only in the background, can create a lot of unnecessary â€œnoiseâ€ both for you and the people around you. A lot of the time, getting a new email pulls your focus away from the job at hand, forcing you to shift from task to task. When it comes to email, you can do yourself a favor by switching off your email notifications, pop-up windows, alarms, and ring tones.
Over the next couple of days, pay attention to what happens to your focus, your productivity, and your well-being each time youâ€™re distracted by an email notification. Then try working for a couple days with the notifications switched off. After that, you can make an informed decision about what works best for you.
You have the choice of planning your time and activities in a way that facilitates getting important tasks done. Arne Sorenson of Marriott plans uninterrupted hours of focused meetings, with no phone, computer, or tablets around. Jean-FranÃ§ois van Boxmeer of Heineken blocks out a percentage of his time for doing important tasks. Dominic Barton of McKinsey takes a long run every day to process, reflect, and synthesize. In each case, these exceptionally busy leaders are putting aside specific blocks of time designed to increase their focus. For them, disciplined focus is a mantra for productivity.
The idea of focus time, however, often conflicts with an always-on organizational culture. Focus time therefore requires some principles and preparation. To help, here are a few things you can do:
As much as you may feel like checking emails or messages, donâ€™t give in to a dopamine craving. Instead, be disciplined about staying focused, so that you can get the most out of the time. Then, in a similar manner, allocate specific times for dealing with email.
If youâ€™re checking and responding to emails all day, youâ€™re not fully focused on your work or your emails. Instead of shifting your attention whenever an email arrives, allocate fixed times during the day to fully focus on email. When allocating this time, consider these questions:
Whatever you do, donâ€™t check your email on autopilot. Create separation between yourself and your inbox; give yourself time to focus specifically on other tasks. Then give yourself time to focus specifically on email. Both your overall job performance and your resulting emails will be better for it.
Take a moment to consider the digital communication culture within your team, department, or organization. Are there boundaries or policies in place so you and other employees can â€œunplugâ€? Are email and other forms of digital communication polluting your work environment? If so, take a moment to consider steps you can take to help your team create more mental space in this digital age.
Too many people spend too much time tethered to work. Although for some organizations this may sound good, itâ€™s not. It negatively affects well-being and performance. A strategy doesnâ€™t need to be as radical as eliminating email. There are many simple first steps such as ensuring people actually â€œturn offâ€ when they â€œtake off.â€ And many teams have policies for shutting off devices during meetings so that people can make better use of their time. Sometimes, seemingly small changes to your daily work life can have an enormous impact. This is one of those times.