Taking charge of your email

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There’s a big problem with email. It constantly distracts us from what we were doing. It wastes thousands of hours of productivity by interrupting our train of thought.

Many people allow email to act like an untrained puppy – yapping and jumping up any time it likes. It poops all over the place and leaves us to clear up the mess.

If you don’t take control of your email, your email will take control of you.

I know there are some jobs out there where people are employed to reply to emails as quickly as possible, perhaps they are the exception. But even so this simple step will help most people take control of unruly email.

Here are a few simple steps I use for email:

1. Switch off automatic email delivery

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Some email programs are set to check for email every five minutes! That means every five minutes you could be interrupted by emails that could easily wait.

Our paper mail comes in one bundle every morning around the same time. It gives one interruption. If we are not in it sits and waits on the mat. We open it when it’s convenient.

Now imagine that the mailman brought each letter separately and knocked on the door ten times a day. I would find that really irritating. But that is exactly what most people’s email does!

So here’s the thing. I have switched my email to manual delivery. That means the app only checks for email when I ask it to.

And I only ask it to check for mail once or twice a day – normally first thing in the morning and late afternoon.

It is hard to think of any email being so important that it can’t wait half a day to be read.

That’s my personal email. My office email only gets checked once a day on the three days I am in the office, and normally around 10:30am.

2. Set up an auto-responder if you have to

Set an auto response that says something like, ‘Thanks for your email. To increase productivity email is only read early morning and late afternoon. If your message is extremely urgent and really can’t wait a few hours to be read, please text my cell phone 000-0000-0000.’

Most people won’t text you because 99.99999% of all email is never that urgent.

So instead of your email beeping and putting little read badges on its app icon, distracting you from what you are really working on, just check it once or twice a day.

If you had a puppy that was being disruptive you would quickly train it and put some real boundaries on it. Soon the dog would know to only poop outside, not to jump up all the time, and to stay on its bed when told to. It would know there was a set time for walks.

It is time to put a leash on your email and give it a strict routine so that you are in control, rather than it controlling you.

What about you? How do you control your email?

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