Stop email from interrupting your creativity and connections by getting out of your inbox and into your life.
I rely on email to support my work, connect with people, and even to deliver this very article. That said, when we prioritize email, we make sacrifices. We compromise …
If you are like me, you appreciate the power of email, but clearly see how distracting and even destructive it can be. Can you remember being in the middle of a conversation with someone when they were distracted by an email popping up on their phone? Have you ever had plans to start on a new project, but a quick email check completely derailed your intentions, because the 5-minute check turned into a 2-hour session?
Stop email and take your power back.
Other than very limited, special circumstances, I don’t check email in the early morning. I know that it is just an invitation to get caught up in non-urgent requests. Even though those requests might be interesting and good, they don’t come first. Meditation comes first, coffee comes first, a walk comes first, writing comes first. Your list may look different but what’s more urgent than email for you?
If you use email on a daily basis and want to take back the power of prioritizing your day, use these following tips to de-prioritize your email. They will show you how to get out of your inbox and into your life.
1. Set limits.
The limits are for you. Create limits that protect mornings, evenings, or other times of day when you are most creative, or during the times you connect with your family. For instance, impose limits like:
- no email before 10am, or after 7pm
- only check email 2X a day
- Try Yesterbox (or another structured system). Yesterbox is an email approach where instead of trying to keep up with every new email that lands in your inbox today, your only goal is to clear out mail from yesterday. This article says, “An additional benefit of this approach is that you give people a response within a reasonable timeframe (24–36 hours), while simultaneously training them not to expect instant replies. Email was never intended as a chat-like communication platform and “the tyranny of email” largely stems from people using it in that manner.”
Experiment and be flexible until you find something that works for you.
2. Share expectations.
The expectations are for everyone else. Let co-workers, clients, and even family know what your limits are and the best way to reach you if they need an immediate response. Include a P.S. or something in your email signature that lets people know what to expect. For instance, P.S. I check email every other day so please expect to hear from me in 48 hours.
3. Turn off notifications.
If you get a notification every time you get an email, you are setting yourself up for a day of complete distraction and overwhelm. You don’t need to know the moment a new email arrives. You run your inbox or it will run you.
4. Try a weekend autoresponder.
It took me years to try using an autoresponder but now I have one on all the time.
Start with weekends. Just because the internet is open 24/7, you are not. I want to be available if you have questions about a course or something else I offer and my auto-responder explains how to take next steps.
5. Be brief and kind when you respond.
Most emails can be answered with only a few sentences and brevity/getting right to the point demonstrates that you want to serve while valuing everyone’s time, including your own.
A handful of email requires a longer response. Those are typically the email messages that fall into the “respond later” pile. If a lengthy response is required, considered an audio message. It’s personal, saves time, and will allow you to get to the heart of the matter without worrying if you put the comma in the right place. It also eliminates the concern of “are they going to take this the right way?”
For more accessibility, you could include an audio recording and transcript.
6. Remove email from your phone.
There is only one way to know if you can live and work without email on your phone. Remove it. Try a 30-90 day window and see what it’s like. I removed email from my phone years ago and can think of fewer than 3 instances when it would have been convenient to have email on my phone. Now I never think about it. That means if I am away from my computer, I don’t check email. I don’t check it when I’m out to eat, in an airport, in the car, when I’m waiting or bored. It can wait.
7. Get sacred with your space.
While you can’t prevent 100% of the nonsense that arrives in your inbox, take responsibility for what you let in there. If you subscribed to a list or website that bombards you with sales offers or deals all day long, remember that you gave them permission (and you can take it back).
Instead of complaining about how annoying the offending company is, unsubscribe or filter out as much junk as you can to protect your inbox. If you make it a sacred space, you’ll think twice about signing up for something you aren’t really interested in. Make room for the good stuff by saying no to what doesn’t serve you or your work.
Stop email from ruining your mornings. Take back the power to pay attention to what matters to you first thing in the morning. Stop email from distracting you and take back focus and clarity. Stop email from having all the power and take back ease and joy too.
If you want to connect, create, and thrive, get out of your inbox and into your life.