Treat your email like snail mail

Just because email is "always on" doesn't mean that we need to always check and respond to it, reminds the blog today. Back before dialup, it was normal for people to go online to download their email, then disconnect from the internet to read and write responses offline, at their pace. Then the next time they went online, their email responses would go out. There wasn't a culture of instant response. But as email has become a primary communication tool (and broadband has given us 'always on' internet), it's been very easy for us to get in the habit of letting email sidetrack us constantly through the day. The tip from is to treat your email like snail mail, and break the cycle of checking and responding the second new email arrives:

Decide what time (or times) you will deal with email each day. At that time (assuming you deal with it once a day) you will have the last 24 hours worth of emails waiting for you. Set up an efficient system to deal with all of your emails in one sitting. Sort, process, act and delete, until there is nothing left. Then turn off your email.

The gist of it is you need to train yourself, and the people who email you, that email is not efficient for instant communication. I'm still winnowing down my email subscriptions and folders to minimise the amount of email alerts I get over the course of the day. So does the "once a day" ethos appeal to you - or is it too hard to resist the "you have mail" alert?

Treat your email like snail mail and walk away with change []


    Once a day, yikes! I turn the alerts off on my work email account during the day, and check it intermittently between tasks - it's open, so I don't have to wait for it to load or anything, but I don't let it interrupt me.

    Home email account I usually only check once in the morning, and once or twice in the evening.

    I think the trick is mainly avoiding the distraction of the 'you got mail' alerts which take you away from the task you are on, and then require you to change mental direction.

    I wish I could use these techniques with email, but customers and colleagues expect me to respond promptly. I don't think I'm the only one in that boat.

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