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Stop Treating Email as Urgent

By Joey Havens

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Full disclosure, this is a combination of both venting and sharing.  It simply drives me crazy when I see person after person allowing email to manage their day and destroy the power of focus and their effectiveness.  Email alerts and checking email constantly all lead to poor time management and reduce our ability to be outstanding. Email has gone from one of the most effective management and time saving tools to one of our biggest distractions.  We have too much of it and no discipline in how we manage it. If we were moving books from one office to another, how long would it take us if we only took one or two books at a time rather than stacking them and taking a box or arm full?  Yet we manage email one at a time rather than stacking them into specific time slots to allow for managing them all at once. It’s like cooking a meal and making separate trips to the grocery store for each item as you read down the recipe. Simply crazy!

Even worse, we have trained our clients, customers and team members that it’s urgent, so they expect us to respond immediately. So, we keep running to the grocery store to pick up an item for them too. Do we sometimes receive urgent and important things in email? Of course. But, we must find a system that manages our email effectively rather than allowing our email to manage us. For example, we could let our clients and team members know that if they send a time sensitive email, to let us know via a phone call, text, or instant message.

With so many new communication and collaboration tools, we have lots of opportunities to change how we manage the urgent and important. It appears that we are slow to adopt new ways of working with these tools because our email habits have become ingrained into how we work. 

The bigger issue with changing tasks, or the ever popular “multi-tasking,” is that we aren’t wired to do this very effectively.  A study by the University of California Irvine determined that even minor interruptions can cause us to take at least 20 minutes to return to the level of focus and thought we had before the interruption. 

How much more could we do every day that provides real value if we simply reduced our “shadow” recovery time from interruptions around email that could be avoided, managed, or delayed?

The urgency of email is killing our ability to reach our full potential.  Stop, reflect, plan, and take steps to own your email and your day!