Take Control of Your Email In-Box

October 23, 2013


The email in-box challenge

In an increasingly fast-paced work world, most students and new professionals find time management to be among the greatest challenges they encounter. Unfortunately, the technology upon which we all now depend rarely aids our time management efforts. Instead, when our phones ring, vibrate or blink, most of us turn our focus from the project in front of us to address the latest message that has landed in our email in-box.

We allow our focus and attention to be diverted non-stop. Last year, McKinsey & Company reported that knowledge workers spend nearly one-third of their workday reading and responding to the 145 billion—yes, that’s a billion with a “b”—emails that travel through cyberspace daily. (In case you’re wondering, it’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of those emails are spam.) Instead of staying focused on what’s critically important to their success, many students and professionals lose critically important time opening and closing every new message they receive when they receive it.

As a client service provider, I understand the need to be responsive. However, I also know that many workers allow themselves to be distracted by email when they absolutely need to stay focused on their hardest work challenge of the day.

Take control of your email in-box

Successful students and new professionals take control of their email in-boxes. Next to setting and prioritizing specific and measureable daily goals, learning how to manage your email in-box may be among the most important time management skills anyone can acquire.

Among the specific strategies you should pursue consider the following:

Turn off new message notification indicators. Every ring tone, flashing light or vibration seems innocuous enough. However, even if you don’t completely pull away to respond to each new email message, every time you receive a notification, your attention is diverted from whatever project you had been focused upon. Some studies indicate that once your attention is diverted, you may require a full five minutes to completely refocus.

Review your email at specifically designated times. Some experts say you should be able to review your email a mere two times per day, once in the morning and again before you close down at night. However, too many of my clients expect their junior professionals to be electronically accessible 24/7. Where responsiveness is a critical success factor, review you email in-box every two hours. Immediately delete any junk emails. When a message requires a brief amount of attention, quickly respond and then delete the message. When a message requires a more detailed response, contact the sender and let them know when they can expect a response.

Clear your email in-box daily. At the end of each day, perform one last review of every email you received during the day that remains in your in-box. Then take one the following four actions: 1) file the email; 2) ask any clarifying questions necessary for you to appropriately and fully respond to the email; 3) schedule time to address the email; or 4) delete the email. Some experts indicate that you will revisit any email you leave in your in-box between three and five times. Now that’s a waste of valuable time!

The smartest new professionals quickly move to take control of their email in-boxes. Establish some smart email habits early and show your email who’s the boss.

What You Need to Know:

Make the best use of your time by taking control of your email in-box. Turn off automatic notification indicators, respond to emails only at regularly scheduled times, and clear your email in-box daily.



comments powered by Disqus