Stay focused to stay productive : don’t be driven by email

Tuesday March 18th, 2014, 2:19 pm

Do you need to see each and every new email as it arrives?  Do all emails carry the same value and importance for you and how you perform your job?  No.  That is judging by the responses from over 200 delegates on various workshops Mesmo Consultancy has run over the past few weeks. Less than 3% of participants confessed that there really would be a problem if they did not see an email within twenty minutes of its arrival in their inbox.

Bearing in mind your inbox is a picture of you and the role you perform, there are obviously some of you who areEmail button black more at the sharp end than others.  However, interestingly when pressed about who are these impatient and badly behaved senders, all bar one or two delegates confessed that it was an internal senior manager and not a customer/client who had such short email response time frames.

It would seem that by and large customers/clients actually do have a slightly longer fuse than we anticipate.  They expect to wait an hour or two for a reply.  They acknowledge that if it’s urgent a phone call might be better and that you as the recipient might not be at your inbox the minute they send their email.

So why do so many people let their days and life be dominated by the arrival of a new email – in some cases dropping an urgent task in favour of a new email?  Some possible explanations are:

  • Instant gratification – dealing with emails is quicker and easier than writing a report etc.
  • Email addiction – we need our fix little and very often.
  • Poor time management skills – it’s hard to plan the day and stick to the plan.
  • Strategic thinking is hard for many – it’s easier to think and behave tactically.
  • The perception that people expect an instant reply – your behaviour influences other people’s behaviour.  If you always reply instantly, you create an image that you will always do so.

For those concerned that email addiction might be the cause, you can check yourself out using Mesmo Consultancy’s free email addiction benchmarking tool – click here to start.

For others here are our tip five tips to help you focus and stop being driven by email.

  1. Switch off all those new email alerts (on all devices) and stay focused on the task in-hand for 20 to 30 minutes.  Then stop and take fives minutes out to check and deal with your email.
  2. If the task in hand is very demanding and very important – disconnect completely.  Either use the Out-Of-Office message to manage expectations or delegate access to your inbox to someone else.
  3. Tell those you work with that you have changed your email behavior and that if it’s urgent they should call you. Otherwise you will respond during the course of the day.
  4. If you really must see certain emails immediately they arrive, use the rules function to alert you to these ones only.
  5. Focusing can be hard – develop your skills to stay in the present and focused though techniques such as Mindfulness.
For more time saving tips and hints why not buy a copy of one of our books or let us run a Smart Email Management workshop for you and your colleagues.
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