Recalibrate your responsiveness to email

Email is the “mother of all habit-firming products”, our work product ends up suffering when we continuously check email throughout the day.

We keep checking email because if feels productive, but we should be checking it based on our schedule and priorities, not someone else’s.

Email is much more efficient when we timebox it, as with other focused work. This could be ten minutes every hour, on the hour, or at other specified times of the day. It’s really up to you.

But hold to that time box, check it on a schedule and not when your emotions get the best of you, referencing our internal triggers — like feeling uncertain, stressed or anxious — that can often drive us to get distracted.

Being in a client service business, like many other people, I wondered how one can balance being reasonably responsive and not get distracted by email. I recommends labeling emails based on when they need a reply.

Where we waste the most time is on the checking and re-checking, not on the replying. The time wasted on email is the rechecking because we forgot what’s said in the email, we put it away, we open it again, and we forget what’s in it, we open it it again…it’s a big, old waste of time.

Each email should only be touched two times. If it is truly urgent (he estimates about 1% of emails), then go ahead and reply. Everything else will either need a reply today (about 20% of emails), this week, or never (in which case, you should delete it).

Much of the non-urgent emails, he says, end up resolving themselves and don’t end up needing a reply. I shared that if you want to receive fewer emails, you should also send fewer emails.

Often, it’s just a ping-pong game that feels like you’re doing work. Busy does not equal productive.

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