I typically check mine in the morning, at
lunch, and at the end of the workday. And thatís only if Iím involved in
active open-loop communications. If I donít have any active open loops,
then Iíll usually check email once or twice a day. Handle your email in
batches to increase your efficiency.
Experiment with how often you really need
to check email. Realize that youíre paying a productivity price the more
often you check it. Curiosity is not a good enough reason to check
email. Have a legitimate business reason for checking email as often as
you do. See how infrequently you can push it without causing problems.
For many people once a day or even once every two days will work just
Once you check email in the morning,
promise yourself that you wonít check it again until the end of the day,
and set a specific time. Iíll check my email twice today, so I wonít
check it again until after 6:00pm. If itís before that time, I wonít
allow myself to check it.
If you get addicted to checking your
email too often, you can help break the habit by making it harder to run
your email program. Remove the program icon from your desktop and your
quick launch bar, so you have to hunt for it on the Start Menu. Or make
yourself launch Explorer and navigate to find the icon from there.
Adding extra steps can help break the pattern of impulse checking. And
if that still doesnít work, setup your email on a separate PC like a
laptop that you must boot up every time you want to check email.
2. Use email only for non-urgent
Donít turn email into an urgency-driven
communication tool. Itís not designed for that. If time is of the
essence, then pick up the phone. Now that you can get unlimited long
distance for $25/month from companies like Vonage (also check out Skype),
thereís no reason to be stingy with the phone.
If you have others pressuring you to
check your email more often than once or twice a day, such as people
that get frustrated if they donít get a reply from you within an hour or
two, then you need to push back. Let such people know that they should
never use email for truly urgent communication with you ó if they need a
fast reply, they must pick up the phone or visit you in person (if
youíre both co-located).
3. Disable email checking on program
Donít set your email program to
auto-check email every time you launch the program. You want to be able
to send an email at any time during the day without automatically
checking email too. You may often need to send emails during the day as
part of various tasks, but you donít need to check email at those times.
Check email only when thereís a legitimate reason for checking.
4. Log your email usage.
Create an email log, and record how
often you check email. You can do this with a sheet of paper. Just
record the start and stop times whenever you run your email program. Do
it for about a week, and see how much time youíre spending on email. Is
it worth it? If youíre checking your email more than 20 times a week
without a legitimate reason, youíre wasting way too much time. Try
giving yourself a daily or weekly email checking quota, and once you hit
it, you canít check your email anymore until the next day/week when your
quota resets. Offer yourself a reward like going to see a movie or going
out to dinner the first week you come in under quota.
Email is a powerful business and
personal communication tool, but itís easily abused. Why? Because itís
so easy. Checking and answering email is something you know you can do,
so it provides an immediate sense of accomplishment. But itís a hollow
victory, and if you spend your days masterfully checking and answering
email, youíll go nowhere and crowd out those actions that could really
move you ahead.
Replace frivolous email abuse with
purposeful intention. Use it to enhance your productivity instead of to
destroy it. Consciously scrutinize the way you use email, decide what
legitimate role it will play in your life, and set boundaries to enforce
Copyright © Steve Pavlina