Will the day ever come when my email inbox won’t be beckoning me? If and when it does, I bet I will freak out and think the Internet is broken.
I live between these two extremes. My inbox is always making all kinds of noises with notifications of: news to publish, news from the industry, contributor articles, and a million subscriptions to newsletters and newsfeeds. On the rare occasion, as rare as Osmium, that my inbox goes silent, I immediately freak out and think that maybe the Internet is broken (lost a connection, or there’s a bug with the emailing service), instead of thinking that I am being blessed with a quiet day.
I don’t know if psychologists have come up with a term for “email checking syndrome” (if not, ECS, you’re welcome) or “email obsessive compulsive disorder,” which I believe a lot of people will relate to, but these fleeting extremes can definitely zap your productivity. How do I handle it? I try not to look at the preview window that pops up every time a new email comes in, and keep on writing… still writing…
But there are some productivity tricks that really do help (still trying not to look at the inbox). According to an article published in Forbes this May, replying to email accounts for about 28% of our total workweek. The author says that by doing a few easy steps, you can cut back on time spent dwelling in your inbox like:
- Create a filing system that will prioritize your email actions or organize your email. For example: create 2 folders – “Require Action”= requires you to do something more than just responding and “Require Response”= if you can’t reply to emails immediately, this would be a type of read/reply later folder.
- Unsubscribe from lists that do not offer “solid value for your business.” He recommends a service called Unroll.Me (which won’t work for some Outlook accounts) that gives you a complete list of emails you’re subscribed to for easy subscription management.
- Turning off notifications sounds easy, right? In my case, I can’t turn off my email notifications because of the nature of my work, but if this is viable for you, then by all means go ahead. Being interrupted when preparing client presentations or strategies for marketing is the worst!
- Short and sweet responses = less chitchat, straight to the point. Now, I don’t mean to be rude, but please, do get to the point or, better yet, “bullet-it.”
- Set up filters. Going back to the first point above, you can set up a filter on your inbox that will move emails that you would read later to the “Require Response” folder. Or, in my case, I filter and file all the newsletters in one folder.
- Time it: Some people can take advantage of checking their inboxes in the morning and in the afternoon. If this works for you, stick to it. This will help you start a routine and remember to empty your inbox at the end of your day.
While I do try to keep true to these tips, it is still quite a challenge to not check my email every so often. Chalk it up to the nature of my job, which I love.
And if you have any tips that have worked for you, please share them in the comments below. Good luck with your ECS!