Last week I challenged myself to a new email routine. I committed to checking email twice a day instead of living in my in-box. It was a great success and I am going to stick with it. I check email for my day job, my photography and blog account, and personal messages. My twice daily email-lite worked beautifully for each. In addition, I made myself invisible on my gmail accounts to avoid instant messaging.
What happens when you stop checking your email every few minutes?
Stop reacting – You might find that watching or listening for your email, you react to any incoming messages. Instead of responding thoughtfully, you may shoot something back to get it off your list because you are “so busy”. When you stop reacting and start thinking, you might be able to offer a more creative solution or response.
More time – All of a sudden, I have more time during the day. Prior to email lite, I noticed that I was always thinking about another email I needed to send, while I was reading email. This mental multi-tasking really slowed me down. Now I keep a list with me during the day and jot down anything I need to accomplish during my next email check. I know exactly who I need to email, and what I want to say, so checking and sending email only takes about 1 hour twice day. (I hope to get that down to 15 minutes in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.)
Better mood – This is a horrible confession, but sometimes, I used to sleep with my iphone next to my bed. When the alarm went off, I would wake up, reach over and scan through my email. What I read in those first few minutes of the day, determined my mood for the first few hours. That is not the way to live life on purpose! By checking your email at 10am or later, you decide how you feel!
Run your day – The other negative that happened when I checked my email first thing in the morning is that other people’s needs became my first priority. Instead of doing my stuff, I was doing their stuff. Now, because I don’t check email before 10am, I run my day and do the most important things first.
Less email – By constantly responding to email, you will actually generate more work for yourself. Unfortunately, it typically isn’t meaningful work. With texting, email, and social media, a genuine phone call has become very rare, and also very impactful when doing business. Out behave your competition and pick up the phone.
More connections – Get out of your in box and into high quality conversations. Just because someone sends you an email, doesn’t make them a productive connection for you. Be proactive about who you want to spend time with and collaborate. If all your time is spent with people that email you, there will be missed opportunities that you could have created by reaching out.
Meaningful work – This might be the most important change. When you stop checking your email and start doing things that you care about, instead of “staying busy” all day, you will produce meaningful work.
My new routine has not made me less approachable or less available. It is quite the opposite. Now, when I respond (instead of react) to someone, I can take the time to be thoughtful and engaged in the conversation.