Have you ever sat down to "quickly" check your e-mail, and 2 hours later, realized you were still sitting there?
Join the club!
While I could NEVER live without email, I also feel quite certain that it doesn't need to completely ruin my productivity or become a huge time suck — right?
I'm always looking for simple ways to save time, so about a year ago, I decided to start consciously tracking the amount of time I spent checking, reading, and responding to my email each day… and the results were staggering.
I was spending almost 4 hours every day just on email. It was clear that I needed an e-mail intervention… fast!
If you feel like you might need an email intervention, here are a few things you might consider:
1. Set specific times to check email.
I started checking my email at 4 specific times each day — 8:30am, noon, 4:30pm, and 10:30pm (for 30 minutes each time). Yes, that still amounts to 2 full hours of email each day, but that's a savings about 50% — and that's a pretty significant savings over a few months.
Also, I should note that if I'm in a period of down time (waiting at the doctor, standing in line, etc) I'll quickly check my email from my phone and respond or delete messages as I have time. This saves me loads of time once I'm back at my desk again.
2. Delete spam and junk immediately.
The first thing I do when I check my e-mail is delete anything that doesn't need my attention. I don't even open it.
This may seem harsh, but it only takes 30 seconds to do and it reduces the amount of e-mails in my inbox by about 40%. Plus, it makes it faster and easier for me to process the remaining emails.
3. Process all emails in one sitting.
After I delete the junk, I try to open and process (file, respond, delete) as many emails as possible until my timer runs out (yes I've been using a timer!)
Processing my emails can take a while — especially if some require a more lengthy or though-out response; so by setting a timer for 15, 20, or 25 minutes, I can work quickly without wasting 2 straight hours of time.
Obviously, this step is easier if you first take the time to organize your email inbox
4. Use short responses.
No, you don't need to be rude, but I've found that I can usually appropriately respond to most emails with just a few sentences.
Also, if the email is from someone I know personally, I might just call them up instead — especially if I'm riding in the car, playing with kids outside, or other tasks where I might no have my computer or phone handy.
5. Schedule time for longer responses.
There will be emails that require more thought, a longer response, and take more of your time. Since I don't normally have the time to respond to these longer emails during my regularly scheduled email time-slots, I started scheduling a longer period of time — either at the end of the day or the end of the week — to respond to all of these longer requests.
I found that by responding to all of the emails at the same time, I worked faster, I worked more efficiently, and ultimately saved a bunch of time.
So far, these simple steps have helped me cut my email time in half — giving me extra hours every day!
If you are spending needless hours on your email, try implementing 1 or 2 of these ideas and see how much time you can save.