I recently started to read a book that will definitely change my life and the way I see time management; The 4 Hour Workweek. This marvellous book written by Tim Ferris is slowly but surely becoming my ultimate guide to time management, and by the same token, my ultimate guide to email management.
I will not talk much about the book for now since I’m not done reading it. However, I have just finished the “Eliminate” section of the book which concentrates on eliminating everything in your life that restrains you from being efficient and effective at the same time (since being effective at something that is useless is quite inefficient).
Starting this week, I am trying a whole different way to manage my email. This will be very hard as I am not used to doing it this way but I think it is worth a try:
Look at your email only twice a day
If your job requires that you work with a computer, you surely have a ton of email to manage daily. If you are part of the (un)lucky employers who has a BlackBerry or an iPhone to “improve” email time management, you are probably swamped by email and your can’t stand your pocket vibrating like the Duracell bunny on ecstasy anymore.
In fact, we are constantly looking at our email throughout the day. Why are we so concerned about our email? Here’s why:
#1 Thinking that a quick reply will prove how effective we are.
#2 Thinking that an urgent issue can pop up at any time and we better be ready to respond right away.
#3 Thinking that we can’t handle the view of a red screen due to an inbox filled with unanswered email.
#4 Thinking that this very red screen inbox means a lot of angry and frustrated customers/co-workers/(or worst) managers!
However, looking at our inbox 20 times a day (if not more! Try to count them just for fun… I’m at 10 times so far this morning and it’s not even 9 am yet!) keeps us from focusing on our main tasks.
When you think about it, the fact of jumping from one task to another makes much of our time very unproductive. In fact, the first economists back in the late 1800’s figured out that employees with less movements were way more productive in manufacturing. The fact that they were doing the same thing repeatedly without interruption made their skills sharper and they were more able to concentrate on their tasks.
While we live in a world where we have 100 responsibilities to bear, we can’t imagine limiting ourselves to a single time for the whole day. That is not the point either. However, if you look at your email only twice a day, you will be able to concentrate on answering them and your efficiency to manage your email will be much higher.
You will also have much more time to focus on your other tasks during the day and you will notice that there are not many emergencies that can’t wait half a day ;-).
Another interesting point is that looking at your email only twice a day prevents you from email chatting… which is one of the biggest time robbers ever.
Don’t look at your email in the morning (aahhhh!)
Another thing that Tim is suggesting in his book is not to touch your email until noon or after you come back from lunch. How can you go through your morning without looking at your email? Honestly, I don’t know how to do it yet.
However, his point is the following: looking at your email will prevent you and gives you the best excuse to postpone important tasks that should be done. So instead of doing the real important things right away, you will proved that you have worked very hard to accomplish very little ;-).
I’m still fighting with this technique as I write these words (I tend to check my email while writing a post) but I will try the whole week to not manage my email in the morning and not looking at it more than twice a day (I guess I will have to try harder tomorrow as I have failed for this morning already!).