Is your email killing your productivity? Then it’s time for some basic e-mail management. With a few simple steps, you can maintain control over your in-box:
- Use the software: Set up your e-mail client to manage as much of the incoming mail as possible. Create filters to route unnecessary messages past your in-box and into a folder. Make sure your spam settings and databases are active and up to date. The more you automate your e-mail, the less time you spend reading and deleting.
- Turn off your new mail notification: You don’t have to read every piece of e-mail the moment it arrives. Pop-ups, beeps and “you’ve got mail” notifications can be too distracting to ignore. Turn them off!
- Don’t read and respond to each incoming message: Dealing with each e-mail as it arrives can create constant interruption to your work-flow. Set aside time each day where you deal with your e-mail. Have a process —such as this one— for clearing your in-box.
- Manage e-mail during times of lower energy: Don’t deal with e-mail during your most creative or productive times of the day. Processing e-mail doesn’t require much energy. Don’t waste your creative periods on something as routine as e-mail.
Lucille Ball said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” One of the side benefits” to getting organized and developing skills to get things done, people begin to see you as a go-to to get even more accomplished.
This extra work or activity can quickly take over your systems and threaten to overwhelm you. There are five things you can do that can keep you on top of the action.
- Have a plan. You have to know where you are going to be able to get there. Always make time to plan your day, your week or whatever interval you need to organize.
- Break it down. David Allen talks about next actions. Don’t look at the entire project, you may never get started. Break it down into component pieces and focus on the next step.
- Set priorities. When managing multiple projects or actions, you need to know which are the most important (not necessarily urgent) and work on them first.
- Set timelines. If you decide a project can be finished “whenever” that’s exactly when it will be done. Whether you plan by the calendar or work by context, you need to know when things need to be completed. Alway buffer your timelines to allow for the unexpected. It’s best to under-promise and over-deliver.
- Maintain your systems. The reason you created your systems was to help you gain control. Keep using them to maintain control.
When things begin to pile up, it’s easy to react to the urgent and let everything go somewhere in a hand cart. An investment of time in planning and using your systems will keep you from being overwhelmed.