Some days, it can seem as though the flow of emails is never-ending. As soon as you deal with one, another equally urgent request comes in, and although you may feel super-efficient dealing with them as they come in, it’s easy to get to the end of the working day and find that in real terms, you’ve done nothing. You then become one of the ‘burning the midnight oil’ brigade, only you’re not getting ahead of the game – you’re just treading water.
Instead, schedule three set times during your working day to check your email. If you were in a meeting you wouldn’t be available to respond immediately, and in many ways, nor should you; some clients will take it as evidence that you have no other work (and may therefore not be their best port of call as a supplier). Worse still, that they can say frog any time they like, and you will jump, no matter what your other priorities might be, or what time of day it is. You could set up calendar alerts to remind you, or even use software which will only fetch your emails at certain times.
If you have set clients and contacts who email you regularly, setting up a system to separate them into folders can be very useful, especially if you need to keep track of a chain, and waste time searching on previous communications. All you will have to deal with that isn’t in its proper place are any new client communications, and any newsletters or subscription items.
The next time you’re reading that email newsletter, think about whether you really need it; if it’s adding value to your business, hold onto the subscription, otherwise, hit unsubscribe. If they’re subjects that could be read in your leisure time, divert them to your home address. The average worker spends around one business day deleting emails every year, so reduce that load by making sure you don’t receive quite so many in the first place.
It’s inevitable that something important will come in just as you’re about to clock off from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong in putting in an extra hour or two to deal with it if it really is a rare occurrence. However, if the reply can wait until the morning, put it on your to-do list instead!
You can’t do much about your office phone ringing, nor colleagues coming to speak to you during working hours, but you can limit the siren call of your email notifications, leaving you free to do the most important thing – work!