5 Common Mistakes You Make With Email (That Are Costing You 5 Hours a Week)

In my work with busy executives and small businesses, email management always comes up as one of the top 3 pain points. Most would express they are ‘drowning in emails’ and spend at least 1.5 – 2 hours daily responding to their emails.

Dermot Crowley is a productivity expert who teaches busy company executives how to be more productive including how to have a zero inbox each week – imagine that! Dermot lists many mistakes busy people make with managing their email. My top 5 common email mistakes:

  1. You’re at the beck and call of every new email alert that arrives. This means you are constantly being distracted by email. Your brain is wired to want to respond to that alert. There is a release of dopamine every time you get an email and you are working against yourself to resist that urge to check it. When you are interrupted from deeply focused work to check an email or take a phone call, it takes your brain approximately 10-15 minutes to get back to that level of focus. So email alerts hurt your productivity. It is easy to turn off the alerts on your computer and on your phone. Then you can devote 30 minutes to check your emails 2 or 3 times per day when it suits you.
  2. You’re checking your email before your feet even hit the floor each morning. This means that at the start the day when your mind is usually freshest you are focusing on responding to other people’s agendas. It is far better to start with something important that you need to get done and then check your emails mid to late morning. If you do this you will be more productive, an important agenda item will be done early, and you will feel more on top of your day.
  3. You use your inbox as your defacto ‘TO DO’ List. This is a mistake many people make who do not use the other functionalities of their email system (Outlook or Gmail). It is far better to use your calendar for appointments and your task list to remind you of things to be done. Then block in on your calendar an appointment with yourself to deal with your tasks. With Outlook you can right click on an email and drag it down to the ‘task’ icon and file it there for the appropriate time when you can do it.
  4. You defer actioning what’s in your inbox. Associated with the ‘TO DO’ list Inbox is the use of the little red flag to itemise emails that are important. This may work during a day when you have something you want to highlight. But over time the little red flags become useless if there are too many of them. It is far better to use the ‘tasks list’ and schedule time each day to work on that days’ tasks.
  5. You’re drowning in folders and an ineffective filing system. So many people create multitudes of folders in which to store their emails. This can be helpful briefly but over time the sheer weight of emails and the growing number of folders usually means you spend increasing amounts of time looking for a particular email. With MS Outlook there is a very powerful search engine that enables you to find any email quickly. So it is possible to reduce your folders to a small number, even just one, for the emails you need to keep. At most you should have 5 – 10 folders.

Taking Back Control of Your Inbox

I learned Dermot’s system for MS Outlook 6 months ago. It was such a relief to implement what I learned and less than 3 hours later go from more than 3500 emails to zero, knowing all the important ones were still immediately accessible. My stress levels reduced and my productivity has increased significantly. And my Inbox is still at zero today. And you know, I am even driving more peacefully (well most of the time).

What if you too had a system for getting back 5 to 10 hours a week that email is sucking out of your life? What if you could learn and implement that system in just one day…. And then have it run on autopilot while you get back to the important stuff?

Dermot and I are conducting a rare public workshop on November 14 at The Hills Lodge, Castle Hill in North- West Sydney. Our promise is this: Give us a day, and we’ll give you a month! [Details here]

INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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