Tips to Avoid Email Overwhelm
04 Friday Nov 2011
Last week I delivered a two-hour workshop to the management team of the Inter-Cultural Association on the topic of time management. I called it “Change the Way You Work.”
One of the topics I brought forth during the workshop was how to manage our email so that it doesn’t distract or interrupt us from doing other, perhaps more important, work. I’ve noticed over the years that I am receiving more and more email and sometimes it’s overwhelming or I feel like I can’t keep up. But recently I’ve made some changes as to how I manage the email beast, and I’d like to share some of them with you here. Getting a handle on your email can help you both work more effectively and hopefully enjoy your work a little bit more.
Here are three things to do:
1. Check email two or three times a day only. Have you set your email so that it auto-checks every few minutes and emails keep streaming in? Set it instead so that it auto-checks only every few hours or set it to check manually (and then only check it every few hours). You might have to alert your colleagues that you’ve done this so they stop expecting an instant response. Then sit back and enjoy that email-free time to do other more important, time-consuming or attention-needing work. Really, how many emergencies come up in your day that people couldn’t phone you about if they really needed to?
2. Set your email so that the notification window doesn’t pop up. Most mail programs have some sort of notification window or icon that pops up when a new email comes in. If you absolutely must set your email to auto-check (disregarding my suggestion above!) then turn off the notification window so it doesn’t distract you every time it pops up. It’s just too tempting to check that message – and even spend time responding to it – otherwise.
3. Be a good email role model. If you’re writing long and detailed emails about several topics and copying people who don’t really need to receive them, then you’re being a bad email role model. Ask yourself these questions before you create and send each email: Is it concise enough? Does each recipient really need to get this? Being a good email role model encourages others to follow suit, leaving you with hopefully fewer and more concise emails to read and respond to when you do turn your attention to them.
So there you go, three simple things to try today to start getting a handle on your email and avoid that overwhelm that I know we’ve all felt.
And now I’d like to know…what are your tips for managing your email? Please feel free to share them in the comments.