We have been conditioned to read and react to email messages like Pavlov’s dogs responding to a dinner bell. Unless you are a customer service rep paid to answer client requests immediately, this behaviour is not helping you achieve your most important objectives.
Take control of your day. Get out of Email Jail.
1. Turn off audible email notifications and the blinking red email-waiting light on your Blackberry. If you can bring yourself to do this, it will greatly reduce the number of distractions that pull you away from your daily work.
2. Select blocks of time to work on strategic matters and set your email system to notify senders that you are unable to respond until next day. You can build in a message to include your mobile number for urgent matters. Very few people will actually phone you after having received an out of office notification.
3. Publicize your new approach. Tell people you are not less available — they can phone you anytime — you simply are trying to reduce time spent reading email messages so that you can focus on what needs to get done. Offer to support them should they undertake a similar approach.
4. Promote better email practices by setting a good example. Don’t create distribution lists with wild abandon and then hope others will eliminate you from theirs. Reduce the number of emails you send others by keeping a running list of topics to discuss during your next meeting or phone call.
Break with tradition. Give yourself a pass out of Email Jail.