Cubicle Warrior E-mail Tip: Schedule your e-mail reading

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jan 19

We all need to manage our e-mail and I’ve been writing about it a lot this week. As I noted in Cubicle Warrior E-mail: Reduce your Quantity, I had noted that I had a few distribution lists that I needed to be removed from.

I went into work and asked to be removed from the lists and people removed me. Outside of the (devastating) emotional impact of being removed from a list (in case you missed that…total snark…), I’m now down another six or seven e-mails I receive a day. Not a lot. But five e-mails here, five e-mails there, and all of a sudden you no longer have to process another twenty e-mails a day. Saves a lot of time.

The other thing I didn’t notice until this year was when I read Bob Walsh’s post on To Do or Else.com about “New Year, New Plan: Put E-mail on a leash” was how much I just “scanned” e-mail…and then spent 45-minutes going down a rabbit hole on e-mail instead of getting things done.

Of the several ideas in his series, the one that hit me right between the eyes was the “scheduling” of when he reads e-mail.

“I will not check e-mail before 9 AM. Ever.”

Now there’s a pretty strong statement! For me…critical. If I start out my day processing my e-mail (and I sooooo did this in 2006), there is a strong possibility that I won’t do anything else from 8 AM to 10 AM — and those are my most productive hours of the day. Why would I want to spend my most productive two hours of the day processing e-mail when I could be doing something significant on my “to-do” list?

Precisely.

The other great tip:

“I will check e-mail four times a day and that’s it. 9am, noon, 3pm, end of day. That’s enough. Anyone who has a urgent need to get a hold of me sooner than at those times can pick up the phone and call me.”

Oh….there MUST be SOME emergency in e-mail to distract me from getting things done, isn’t there? Let me check e-mail twenty times a day and see.

You laugh.

Here’s the Cubicle Warrior challenge: starting Monday, count on a piece of paper how many times you check your business and/or personal e-mail. Be ruthlessly honest here. I’ll bet you it’s more than ten times a day. And a good percentage of you will be over twenty times a day. Laugh no more…

Let me know your count in the comments.

Bob’s great tip for me: schedule the times to read your e-mail.

Now, if I could only work the 48-minutes an hour….

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.