Managing the e-mail inbox seems to be more of an art each and everyday. I am a time management junkie and thrive on learning different strategies and tactics to manage the time I spend on my e-mail. As a business manager, the emails is a daily influx of actionable tasks that require attention. Like any business professional, I do my research and learn the different strategies provided by the gurus, but I learned that not all tips are a one size fit all and the tips I spew out might not work for you as well. So I wanted to write an quick article on how important it is to understand how your spend your email time versus just writing an email time management tip in hopes that you can diagnose your time wasters and eliminate them to free up your time with more useful things.
You might have tried the different tips you read on other blogs, and I must admit, I appreciate others sharing their ideas. For example, one popular tip is to not check emails in first thing in the morning and to dictate the day based upon your own agenda. Trouble is, I am a manager who deals with a team’s problems which deals with patients and lives. I am sure you can relate as everything in our accountabilities can be viewed as a fire drill. So, the tip is great in teaching us not to be proactive and to manage our day by not reacting to emails first thing in the morning. So I tried this and you know what, I winded up working longer days because I didn’t respond quickly enough and took more time trying to gather the people and resources to fix problems. Sometimes the problem emails is not something that might blow up into something big but if I don’t check and keep on top of my emails, I just might miss and respond accordingly to a potential big problem. Maybe I need to ask my team to call me for potentially big problems, but then again, it is difficult to reach individuals and it is much easier to send an email.
So, in thinking out loud with that previous paragraph, that strategy did not work too well for me. I had to go about learning how I spend my time with my emails and to pinpoint the actual time wasters. One of the major email time wasters that I have found was that I would not properly file emails that required me to read and understand, but rather kept it sitting in my mailbox so that I can get to it at a later time to read and understand. So, instead I changed the way I filed my emails once I “touched” it. Rather than having it sit in my mailbox, I would save it on my hard drive within a folder such as, “read and understand”, etc. The time waster was in going through my entire email box and re-reading the contents to continually decide what I am going to do with each email. Instead, I created a filing system of either taking immediate action or filing it for future reading.
I had to learn and observe how I spent time with my email and how I wasted time. The time wasters can be spotted by repetition of the same activities numerous times, or keeping emails that should be filed rather than sitting in the lineup awaiting its final destination. It takes time to observe your own behavior, but in doing so, you create your own customized approach to dealing with the unique time wasters you deal with. The tips and tricks help, but remember that not all of them might apply to you so if you go that route, be prepared to waste some time through trial and error as you learn your unique way on how you spend time with your emails.