Stop Your Inbox From Killing
Your Productivity

Do you ever wish you were more productive?

Imagine how much your productivity would increase if you could streamline each day by a couple of hours.

And then think about how a couple of extra hours in a day could impact your week.

With a couple of hours you could write a money-making website and generate a passive income stream.

You could reach out to a hundred new potential clients.

You could write 10-15 more resumes. Or submit and bill your client for one more desktop-marketing project.

I recently made a simple change that’s helped me streamline my day, so that I could write more and still increase my overall productivity.

What was the change?

I took control of my inbox, and limited the time I spend on emails.

I know it’s not a new idea. And you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work.” Or maybe, “My emails are too important, so there’s no way I can do that.”

But let me tell you, I was a disbeliever too. And if I hadn’t experienced the results for myself, I never would have guessed just how much my bad email habits were limiting my productivity.

And with a few quick changes to the way you read and use email, you can make your day a lot more productive too.

Take Back Your Most Productive Hours

The first hours of the day are most likely when you’re at your best. So it only makes sense that you should dedicate that time to creative and important projects.

That’s why I don’t check my email until 11:30 each day, and here’s why you should consider doing the same thing …

First, by checking your email first thing, you immediately end up in a damage control mode.

Chances are your email contains a ton of small, urgent-but-unimportant tasks that you need to do. These tasks could easily wait a few hours, but once you know about them, it’s hard to ignore them.

Second, you end up wasting your most creative and productive hours doing administrative tasks. And even though these tasks are important, you should do them at a time of day when your creative energy has a natural low.

Finally, once you surrender your day over to the demands and concerns of others, it’s hard to get it back on track. Checking email first thing in the morning can really derail your whole day.

How many times have you looked at your clock and thought, “How did it get to be noon already!? I haven’t done anything today except answer emails.”

Get the productive hours of your morning back.

Simply push back the time of day you open and check your email to 11am or later. Then spend the morning working on your important projects, and watch how your productivity soars.

When first implementing this strategy, you may want to add a note to your email signature. It can be something as simple as, “I check my email at 11am and 4pm each day. If this is an urgent matter, please reach me by phone at …”

This lets people know when to expect a response and what to do if they need one faster that what they’ll get through email. It also allows you to be more productive without missing anything important.

Eliminate the “You’ve Got Mail” Distraction

Most email programs have an auto-check feature that lets you know when you have a new message.

How often does your system check for new email?

A lot of people have their auto-check set for every five minutes. Think about that for a second …

If you get a lot of email during the day, you’re basically telling your computer to interrupt you every five minutes. Talk about a productivity killer!

You can reduce this distraction by setting your auto-check for every hour instead of every five minutes. Or if you’re really brave, turn your auto-check off completely, and give yourself total control. Just set a reminder so that you check your email at the times you plan.

Schedule a Time for E-Letters

Yes e-letters deliver great information right to your inbox. And I know what it’s like to worry that you’ll miss something. But reading every e-letter you get can quickly take over your day. Sure you’ll be brimming with great ideas, but you won’t have time to do anything with any of them.

Instead of reading them as they come, schedule a block of time each day to read them. Grab a cup of coffee. Settle in and read your e-letters. Take notes on any ideas that may be useful, and save those that you may want to refer to in the future in a special folder.

If you can’t get through every one of your e-letters during the scheduled time, categorize and archive the ones still left. Don’t leave them in your inbox to pile up into an insurmountable reading chore.

Also reevaluate each of your e-letter subscriptions on a regular basis. Your time is valuable – are you getting a good return on the time you spend reading it?

Use the Two-Minute Rule

Emails you can handle quickly should be handled the first time you look at them. You’ll save yourself time by not dealing with them twice.

When you’re ready to check your email messages, quickly scan your inbox for action items that can be handled in under two minutes, and take care of them first.

You might also prefer to use a one-minute or five-minute rule. Whatever your rule, just make sure you take care of those emails during the first pass.

Closing Thoughts

Email can be a great tool. When used right, it can actually boost your productivity and quickly give you access to all sorts of great information. But that’s only if you stay in control. Otherwise email can quickly take over your day and torpedo your productivity.

Now that you’ve streamlined your day, what will you do with the extra time?

Try spending it on something valuable, like writing a money-making website , growing your current spare-time business, or starting a new one! There’s never been a better time.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: April 28, 2009

2 Responses to “Stop Your Inbox From Killing Your Productivity”

  1. This is great advice and I'll use it for my work email at my full-time job.

    For my home email - and my freelancing related email - I have to take a somewhat different approach. I have limited blocks of quiet time where I can write. I HAVE to write during those times or it doesn't happen. So I scatter my email throughout the other parts of the morning and evening, when dinner is simmering or my daughter's attention is elsewhere since it doesn't take the same level of concentration.

    Beth Robinson

  2. Thank you for this article. Perfect timing as this is top on my list (time wasters). Today I'm separating my email types into right now, can wait and casual. I'm going to monitor for a week and go from there.


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