Does this sound familiar?
You’ve got a busy day ahead, full of customers to call and meetings to attend. You just need to take a minute to answer a couple of emails and check your LinkedIn account.
Three hours later, you come up for air, and the morning has gone by without a single blessed thing getting accomplished.
Ring any bells?
This scenario happened to me more times than I can count. I needed my fourteen-hour days to become ten-hour days again. Something had to give.
One of the first steps I took to grab those precious hours back was to schedule email time.
This was probably the hardest thing for me to do. Hard, but necessary. I scheduled half-hour blocks for email, each day, one in the early morning, one in the late afternoon. Outside of those blocks of time, I shut down my email program.
It was a shocker to employees and customers alike, all the people accustomed to instant answers. I heard the question, “Did you get my email?” dozens of times a day. And it was a shocker to me, because I was the beater of our corporate drum – execution, quality, responsiveness. How could I be responsive if I was ignoring email?
Making email time work meant managing expectations. The two daily time slots meant that most emails would be answered within four hours – a reasonable time frame for most people. I found that others folks – those who couldn’t wait four hours – usually just picked up the phone. In business, a phone call is almost always better than an email train.
To maximize those daily sixty minutes, I set some strict rules.
- Any email that I couldn’t process in under a minute got moved to an Action Item folder.
- Action Items were handled at the end of the thirty-minute blocks (if time allowed).
- I set aside twenty minutes each week to clean up junk/spam folders and create rules to automatically clean up stuff.
- Email time was sacrosanct – nobody was allowed to schedule anything over email time.
Customers and employees did bellyache a little, but in the end, I usually accomplished more with fewer emails. During email time, I could read a whole email train without responding to each and every one, and formulate a more effective (and single) response. People learned that I would respond shortly – if it couldn’t wait, there was always the telephone.
Question: Can you shut down your email program without breaking into hives?