Avoiding Email “Interruptions” – Conquering Your Inbox – Part Two

So you’ve made it through your morning routine and are now at your desk and in front of your computer. And if you’re anything like me, you have a to do list a mile long waiting to be tackled (more about to do lists later)…

Do you know what the biggest killer of productivity is? Interruptions. And do you know what your inbox becomes while you’re sitting at your desk trying to get through your prioritized to do list? A never ending stream of interruptions. Here are my suggestions for conquering your inbox over the course of your actual work day.

1. Hide your dock. If you see the little counter on your email ticking up as your working on something else, that little voice in your head is going to keep pestering you to “just check and see if it’s important.” In reality, nothing in your inbox should be so urgent that it wasn’t proceeded by or followed up with a phone call to alert you of it’s arrival. And as a habit, you may want to determine how you would like to receive “urgent” messages and relay that to your team and others you communicate with on a daily basis (I prefer text messages myself).

2. Decide WHEN you’re going to check your email over the course of the day (again, this is NOT every time you see a notification that you have a new message). If you used the morning clear out method from part one of this series, you may choose to deal with the remaining emails first thing when you get to your desk and then close your inbox for a few hours and get to your own to do list OR you could tackle your most important MUST GET DONE TODAY item first and then come back to your email once that task is complete. Generally speaking, you should aim to work for 1-3 hours between checking your inbox, (unless your primary function is to monitor incoming leads, and then you’ll want to get back to people asap).

3. Decide HOW you’re going to handle the emails that can’t be answered right away and require some additional work on your end. If you’re using iMail you can use the Flags feature and label one “To Do’s” so you know what you have to come back to. If you’re using gmail you can use the Task List feature and create a running list of emails you need to come back to. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook you can create categories and tag emails accordingly.  You can watch my free tutorials here.  And if you’re really old fashioned, you can print the email out and add it to your pile of to do’s on your actual desk. Either way, you’ll need a system to ensure you don’t forget to come back to any emails that can’t be dealt with in the moment.

4. Do One Final Check. Before you head out for the day, check your inbox one last time and use the delete/forward/quick reply/save for later method from the morning clear out. Again, the goal is to get as close to zero as possible, but you don’t want to spend an extra hour at work on an email that came in right before you were going to wrap up for the day.

In part three I’ll share some some tips for dealing with email “after hours”, so when you’re ready click here to read more.