When I was in my twenties, in my second job out of college, I took a course to help me get organized. The focus was to learn and incorporate new practices to help manage priorities, time, and paper! Of course, we had email (I’m not THAT old) but not to the extent that it rules our life today.
The practices and “tricks” I learned in that course many years ago can be applied and updated for our current business and lifestyle. One of the main struggles I hear from the business owners and leaders I work with is the overwhelming amount of email they get: what do with it, how to stay on top of it, and how to get the rest of your work done too!?
Here are two simple steps to managing and finding peace with your email, though they will take practice and discipline to make an impact:
Set up “Store Hours”
In retail we are used to the idea of store hours. If we want to shop in person we have to go to the store when they are open. It’s a simple concept that we honor for stores and restaurants, but we need to apply that concept to our email management too. I encourage you to set up your own “email office hours.” Keep in mind, this is not something you’ll necessarily post on your office door for others to see. This is an internal discipline to set up two or maybe three times a day that you read and handle email. You can set up these “email store hours” in your own calendar. Block out an hour to 90-minutes at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. for example. Be sure to turn off ALL email alerts, sounds, and screen pop-ups so you can focus on your work or your meetings without those interruptions and distractions. When it’s your email time, you will focus on that.
System & Process
Having and consistently using a system to manage your email is imperative to maintain your communication, integrity, and your sanity! During your designated “email store hours” you need to prioritize and categorize all the incoming messages. I recommend setting up file folders in your inbox. By categorizing all the messages relating to a committee you’re serving or a project team, you can read and respond to all of those at one time, for example. It’s much more effective to stay focused on one topic at a time than to flit back and forth between emails about the project, employee vacation requests, and RFPs.
I offer more specific email systems and processes, and overall organization in my SMART Time Management Program. You can learn more here. Of course, the most important way to success for maintaining any change is consistency and discipline.
Reach out to me for a no-cost Strategy Session to talk more about your specific business challenges.
Kim Ellet is a certified professional coach and owner of The Growth Coach of Metro Atlanta. She finds joy in helping successful leaders committed to continuous improvement, be more of who they are, dream bigger dreams, and accomplish more than they realized was possible.