We’ve covered the first rule of email: Touch It Once and while its a good strategy, its a better strategy when combined with the next rule of email. How many times a day do you check email? Once, twice, ten, twenty? How many times a week do you go home from work feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything other than send and receive email all day? I’ve had many days where I felt like the only thing I did all day was email and I didn’t get any real work done. Email is a part of my job, but its not my entire job. And I’m guessing you don’t get paid to send and receive email all day either.
The second rule of email is to Check It Less. We check email too often and we are conditioned that when we hear the ding or see a new message come in that we have to check it. I check email when I’m bored during a meeting or conference call, unfocused, and I’m just don’t feel like doing the work I know I should be doing. The urge to check email is strong and its easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I have to check email constantly because it might be important, its my job to be responsive, and people expect me to respond quickly. Email is a great way to procrastinate while tricking ourselves into thinking we are “working”.
Checking email constantly throughout the day is a great way to keep yourself busy without actually doing any real work.
Instead of checking email all the time, only check it 2 to 3 times per day. I try to stick to a schedule of morning, lunch time, and late afternoon. Just like the Touch It Once rule, this will feel strange and it is outside of your comfort zone. But you have real work to do, the work that will help you reach your goals and the work that you need to do and want to do.
I’ve found that some issues tend to resolve themselves, without any response from me, when I check email less often. And if its that important and I haven’t responded to the email, they usually track me down by phone or in person so that urgent issue I was worried about still gets resolved. And since I’m still following the Touch It Once rule, I read the message, act on it, and then move to the next message.
But the best part about following both rules, I leave work at the end of the day knowing that I got real work done. The work I want to do, the work I get paid to do, and the work that helps my customers and me.
And for what its worth, following both email rules is something I struggle with every day. Most days, I have a pretty good handle on my work email and I follow the rules. But I do not practice what I preach with my personal email. I leave it open all day, checking it several times a day and reading messages knowing I’m not going to respond then and will have to reread the message later. Managing my personal email is something I need to work on and I need to practice what I preach. I’m sharing this with you because I want you to understand that these habits are hard to change but its worth it to get your time back to do the work that matters.
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