Not only is email the norm for professional communications, but the number of messages seems to go up and up exponentially. It is easy to spend too much time on email until it distracts you from more important things. To control the situation, I’ve previously recommended that you scan your emails first thing in the morning and again at midday for urgent matters. Then, I’ve suggested that you block out an hour or so at the end of the day to clear your inbox and process every email before leaving work. When it is time to process email, you respond to all urgent and Important matters while deleting, delegating, or filing other messages. Messages that will require you to get more information to craft your response, you add to your project list with a quick email response that says something like, “I received your email. In order to respond, I will need to gather additional information. I promise to respond as soon as I can.”
Some people told me that this is not a practical solution. They’ve said that they are worn out by the end of the day and don’t have the brainpower to respond to important matters. I’ve also heard that if a response requires information from someone else, it’s not likely to find someone who can help at the end of the day. Also, one person messaged me, “If you want me to clear my Email box at the end of the day, I will be at the office until the late evening. So much for work-life balance.”
I got the message.
If doing a comprehensive review of emails at the end of the day doesn’t make sense to you, I have an alternate idea.
Set aside a 60 or 90-minute time block to clear your inbox at the beginning of your workday. Just make sure that you return to the projects you had planned for the day when that time block is over. You then scan for urgent email matters at midday and the end of the day. Respond only to pressing issues from individuals who have the power to set your schedule (i.e., your boss or a significant client) or to those that you can handle in less than two minutes.
It truly doesn’t matter what time of day you spend working on email. What does matter is that it is too easy to respond to emails as they arrive, thus keeping you from more important projects.