Are You Running Your Schedule or Is Email Running You?

sad-email-userHere are my Top 3 ways for you to overcome the email drain I call “emailaholism”:

Ever worked from home, really been in the groove and then your spouse or kids interrupt you for something? Then think about the time and mental energy it takes to get back to where you were.

It’s challenging, and a good amount of time gets wasted. Now multiply that by the 20, or 40 or (many) more times we willingly let email be that same interruption each day. All the mental see-sawing between tasks means we are unnecessarily wasting a significant portion of our day that could be spent on more important priorities, including those outside of work.

I’m not suggesting that email is inherently evil or we should do away with it entirely. It is clearly a great technological advancement that is here to stay. Rather, the issue is how we use it each day and what that does to our time.

Most of us have short-attention spans and have trouble focusing on one thing, so email offers us a convenient and easy alternative to read and react to new messages throughout the day. Except that also means it is easy and convenient to spend 8 or more hours on things that aren’t even close to the most important. And unfortunately those important things still exist and need to get done.

You can spend all sorts of money on time management seminars to help with your affliction, or you can simply follow what I do, which is free and likely far simpler.

Step #1 – Prioritize

On my way into work each day, I think about everything on my plate and I decide on the 1-3 most important things that have to get done. If the priorities are big and complex, I break them into smaller chunks that I can complete in a day so I can feel like I’m making progress.

I use a range because some days have more urgency than others, but it is important to never have more than 3 priorities at the outset otherwise the list itself can be too daunting and de-motivating. I then write these down in their order of priority, which helps me visualize and seems to make them more official, and then I begin working on them.

*Spoiler Alert – I do not turn on my email.

Step #2 – Complete 1-3 most important things that have to get done

Yes, you read that correctly. I do not tempt myself with the sweet nectar of the gods until after I’ve gotten my 1-3 most important things for the day done.

Step #3 – Catch up on email

This is where the most debate with the Father Time process always occurs. Sales and customer service folks ask, “But what if my customers need something?” Other staff asks, “But what if something urgent needs my attention?”

To the former, I simply say make responding to any customer needs one of your top priorities for the day. However, because that requires one to wade into the Garden of Eden with temptation all around, you must learn to be disciplined and truly only address the customer emails. Or better yet, use a separate email just for your customers!

The latter requires a paradigm shift and a bit of old-fashioned 20th century technology – don’t use email for things that are urgent. My staff knows that if they need my help with something urgent, they call me. Otherwise, they can email me and I’ll get to it after my priorities are completed or better yet, they can bring it up during our weekly Level 10 meeting (Read my Level 10 blog).

Why? Because as soon as I open that email, my time is likely not being spent on the most important things. Even if I spend 30 minutes checking email to start the day, that could mean I don’t have the 30 minutes I needed at the end of the day to get something more important completed. Or worse, it means I need to spend 30 more minutes at work that isn’t being spent with my wife and son in the evening.

So in that context, it is really 30 minutes of non-essential email chasing vs. 30 minutes with Father Time’s wife and son. Guess who wins?

Who wins for you?

If you want to save even more time this year, email me at cwills@studentpaths.com with the secret password INBOX in the subject line and I’ll send you the book written by the thought leader on this topic.

Chris Wills About Chris Wills

Father Time, or Chris Wills, is passionate about helping other leaders learn and grow and free up time they didn’t think they had. He is the Founder of Student Paths, an organization that better prepares students for their future in college, career and life readiness. You can reach Chris at: cwills@studentpaths.com

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