Yesterday one of my employees said to me, “I sent you an email. Didn’t you read it? You never read your emails.”
To which I responded, “I read them, I just don’t read them the moment they enter my in-box.”
Emails are distractions, pure and simple. I used to receive an audible alert every time an email entered my in-box. Keep in mind that statistically, 90% of emails are spam. So that might imply that 90% of those alerts were for emails that I didn’t want to know about in the first place. The alert was distraction enough, but the knowledge there was a potentially important email (perhaps that one in ten) coupled with the annoying alert repeatedly goaded me to click on my inbox and read the email. And perhaps respond, too.
An immediate response is something people have come to expect. But the toll that immediacy was exacting on my productivity was very expensive.
The alternative to being controlled by my email was to take control of it. And that meant taking two actions. First, I shut off the email alert function. My computer no longer tells me I have an email. The silence is golden. Second, I established several times during the day when I review emails. Now, my focus is on my work without interruption so I’m more productive. And when I am processing my emails, I’m focused on them. Funny enough, I actually end up spending less total time looking at email by doing it in concentrated batches. While senders may not get an immediate response, they will get one at my next scheduled email session usually within an hour or two and that’s plenty fast enough.
Try it. Take control of your email, and you may end up being more productive and less stressed.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."