Late last year I decided enough was enough; I would only check emails twice a day. Why would I make myself less ‘on’, less available when the trend across local government is just the opposite? Well, I was losing the email war. Despite turning off audible and pop-up alerts, I was still checking my email many, many times a day – just in case I missed something urgent. The result? I was constantly disrupting myself, and my attention and focus was distracted.
However, for the rest of us, unless it is life or death stuff, most things are not that urgent. A reply after a few hours is generally fine. With this new approach, I am finding I am literally freeing up hours each day to focus on the important things, rather than the trivial. Even if I am out for the day, I can usually deal with all my emails in just over an hour. I’ve also noticed that sometimes with email exchanges between several people, I can just read the last email chain and save a whole lot of time by not having to read each message separately as it comes through.
As part of being transparent with my approach, I ask people to call if they do need an instant response, and I’ve found this has unexpected benefits. Talking to someone means you can pick up tone and other voice cues that aren’t always detectable in an email. And it can be more efficient to have a conversation and get things sorted, especially if it might take 3 or 4 emails before both parties understand what the real issue is.
I still struggle sometimes to discipline myself to check email only first thing and then late afternoon, but it is working. It has also given licence to others in the organisation to give it a go.
Please note that for productivity reasons I only check emails twice a day. If your message is urgent please give me a ring on my mobile number below.