Get Your Email Under Control Like a CEO

Email has become such an integral part of our lives, sometimes it feels like it has taken priority over everything. If you want to be successful professionally and personally, you've got to learn to wrangle in the time you're 'checking', and spend more time 'doing'.

They come in bunches. They come as a crawl. But they are always out there. And we are always checking. I recently began an experiment and it is the reason for this particular post here at Primer.

I’ve been writing a lot recently on my own blog (Finding Focus – about e-mail and the hold it has on us. It began just as one post because e-mail and lots of it is something a lot of us deal with.

I must also say that I have two day-jobs. I have the one that pays my bills and the one I do in a dream to one day do it full-time. Over the last three months, I have been in testing mode on a new e-mail management process for the job that pays the bills. I knew I was checking e-mail too much. Therefore, I devised a schedule of when I could check my e-mail. I picked six times. (Most of what I’ve read says 3-5 times a day is ideal.) In case you were wondering, those times were 8:00 a.m., 9:30, 11:30, 12:45 p.m., 2:00 and 3:00.

Then one day I got into trouble. I wasn’t checking it enough. I checked my e-mail at 9:30 and then got back to it two hours later … but that wasn’t often enough. I needed to be “accessible.” Never mind the fact that I own a cell phone and an office phone to be “accessible.” So, that leads to my advice based on my three-month experiment with e-mail.

1. Set times to check.

Trust me, it helps. And don’t just set the time and leave the program open. No. Shut it down completely after you take care of messages. If you leave it open and running, you won’t be tempted to open it, you *will* open it. You’ll begin to see how addicted you were to it. Once you close your program, you will go to check your e-mail only to realize the program is closed.

2. Empty your inbox.

I try to do this at the end of every week, as I haven’t bought into the whole folder system for “to do” items. I need to see action items. If I put them in a folder, I’m likely to forget about them; however I am considering implementing this in the future.

3. Turn off notifications.

Seriously… own your time and your focus. Every time I get a text, I used to rush to read it. Now, I wait. And sometimes, I forget I even got one. My attitude is simple: if someone really needs me, and I mean really needs me, they will call me.

4. Use technology to your advantage.

Just because you have a BlackBerry or iPhone or other device that you receive e-mail on does not give you the right to check it every moment of every day. Nothing is more infuriating to me to be in a meeting with someone who, while you’re talking, is reading and responding to e-mails. If you are in a meeting, your focus should be there and the people, not your college buddy e-mailing you.

I urge you to think about your e-mail use.

We don’t need to be attached to it, just like we don’t need to be attached to our cell phones and texts. Fact: just because you get an e-mail while at dinner with friends does not make you cool! Check out these stats from Harvard Business Review. We simply need to retake control of our time and it starts with our e-mail.

If you need more of a reminder, use this iPhone background from our collection of 17 Free Inspirational iPhone Backgrounds.

Stop checking your email and get some work done

Richard Dedor

Richard Dedor is a writer, speaker and personal coach dedicated to helping each person achieve their dreams. He ran for political office at age 18 and recently published his first book, Anything is Possible. You can find him at his blog Believe in Possible and on Twitter @RichardDedor.