It’s like not being able to sleep and watching the minutes slowly tick by. Or how people slow to stare as they pass an accident. Email is the same way. You see it come through your inbox and you just have to check, providing an instant distraction to whatever you’re working on.
Now, this wouldn’t be a big problem if we were getting a few dozen emails a day, but with today’s marketing updates, RSS feeds, newsletters, not to mention client and staff communications and more, hundreds of emails can pour in a day. How to handle the deluge and return to efficiency?
I recently read a great blog by Peter Bregman on the Harvard Business Review discussing this topic. He suggested something that others have told me before — limit the time you check email. Pick specific times each day and only check email in those allotted hours, say 9-10 a.m., 11-12 p.m., 1-2 p.m., you get the point.
While Peter only checks email three times a day for 30 minutes each, I would guess that some of us who rely on email for the majority of our transactions could not limit ourselves to 1.5 hours of email. Each person is different and will find a magic number that works for them.
Taking a cue from his blog, I no longer check email from my iPhone until after dinnertime when my kids are getting ready for bed; Peter has decided not to check his email at all after hours. It was surprising how much less overwhelmed I was but I don’t think I could go cold turkey.
I’m only on week one of my new email routine and yes, when I see that little message from Outlook pop up in the bottom right-hand corner of my screen, it’s still overwhelmingly tempting to click on the box and open that new email. But my newfound efficiency is working well and I’m going to resist a little longer. I’ve heard it will get easier to resist that little box.