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.