Despite significant advances in technology, email continues to play an important role in our lives. Our inboxes are inundated with email every single day.
We constantly check our email inbox, regardless of whether we’re supposed to or not. Sometimes we just want to be in the loop and not miss any new pieces of information. We want to respond to queries immediately. After a long weekend or holiday, we get stressed out to look at in our inbox. And the list goes on…
Is there a way to alleviate the problem? What can productivity do for you to escape the email syndrome? This post is searching for the answers.
Let’s dive in and see the seven mistakes people make when dealing with email—and how to avoid them.
#1 Emailing in the morning
Don’t email first thing in the morning, unless your job is customer support. If you happen to get this single takeaway, you’re much ahead of most people. Stop reading now and make a commitment that you won’t email first thing in the morning, at least over the first two hours.
Seriously, you don’t have to read this blog post any further. This single thing will change your life. Close your browser now if you want, I really don’t take it personally.
If you decided to read further, I want to tell you a secret: I would email as my very first thing every morning for years. I really wanted to clear my inbox as soon as possible and, of course, make an impression that I respond to my emails immediately.
There’re times when this strategy works and feels good, but what I found out was that it’s a waste of my most precious resource: my morning hours when I’m at my peak performance level. This single shift has literally changed my life and I’m now way more productive than ever before.
#2 Enabling email n
Most email programs send you notifications by default: pop-ups, push notifications, icons, alarms, and the like. Many people let their phones in email alarm mode even at home and check email every time when they get shaken.
The best you can do is that you turn off all notifications and close your email program when doing deep work.
#3 Processing email from the b
Are you in the habit of processing email in reverse chronological order or the other way round?
It’s advisable that you proceed in a top-down way (new items first) to ensure that you don’t check messages multiple times. If there’s a mail exchange between people, it’s more comfortable to check the last item and scroll the antecedents, if necessary. You really don’t want to waste your precious time by reading correspondence and redundant content.
#4 Checking email instead of acting on it
Many people read their emails and then jump to another task or consume more emails—without taking action. What follows is that they jump back to their emails, search for the one that they’re looking for, and read it again to pinpoint what they’re supposed to do with that.
I don’t check email, I process email!
This leads us to the next mistake…
#5 Violating the 2-minute rule
The 2-minute rule was proposed by David Allen in his seminal book, Getting Things Done (GTD). If you get a task that takes less than two minutes to complete, do it right now.
If you get an email you have four basic options:
- Delete or archive it if it’s not actionable and you probably won’t need it anymore
- Reference it if it’s not actionable, but serves a purpose in the future
- Answer it immediately if it takes less than two minutes
- Put the task on your to-do list or calendar if it takes more time to answer
#6 Checking email constantly
It’s best that you lay out some boundaries to check email at certain periods of the day. For example, you can say that you won’t check email until 10 a.m., last thing in the night, or on Sunday.
Checking email constantly isn’t the cleverest use of your time and energy. People usually don’t expect an immediate reply. If they would, they’ll certainly let you know and find a way to reach you.
#7 Responding to an insult by email
Sometimes an insulting email lands in your inbox. Resist the urge to hit the reply button immediately.
Stoicism says that the best thing to address an insult isn’t a counter-insult. Silence or a humorous reply would be a more educated decision here. Let things go or wait until the next day to get a fresh mind. Fighting with someone by email is the worst thing you can do with your time and soul.
As we’re nearing the end of this blog post, it’s time to recap what we’ve learned from those mistakes.
Dealing with email is a constant struggle, a struggle that I often find myself in. Although teamwork is more and more channelled to Slack, Asana, and the like, we have every proof that email will accompany us for many years.
It’s therefore important that we learn to deal with email and the stress associated with it. So, to ensure that you manage email effectively:
- Turn off email notifications
- Follow a top-down approach when clearing your inbox and begin with the latest item on your list
- Don’t check email, process it
- Answer your email immediately if it takes less than 2 minutes
- Don’t check email constantly
- Stand away from fighting with someone via email
You might consider putting this list on your home screen, whiteboard, fridge, or any place that you could revisit each day. Alternatively, put these items on your Not-to-do list.
If you liked this article, please share it via social media or email. 🙂
Your one takeaway: Commit yourself to a trial period of not checking email in the morning for two weeks and see what happens. Are there any serious consequences? How do you feel?