Who is in charge?  You or your inbox?

I’ve reached a point when action needs to be taken.  I feel like my working day can be too connected to my email inbox.  Managed and directed by it even.  Sometimes I can seem to be constantly checking my email in case something important or exciting has arrived.  What feeds this is that every so often important and exciting things do manifest and require my attention.  I need to follow my own advice.

I remember supporting a client a few years ago. He had lost control over his working day.  He told me he needed to continuously and relentlessly check his emails because important and urgent things might demand his time.   There was a sense of impending doom.  He felt out of control of his working day.  His time management was non-existent.  He was reactive not proactive.  The result was he wasn’t achieving many of his work objectives, he wasn’t being able to attend to his important non-urgent tasks (the ones his performance was assessed on).  These tasks always got left, and people were starting to complain.  We talked about segmenting his day into half hours and hours and allocating tasks to them.  Allowing him to switch off the email for a moment or two.  The new routines needed to match his natural work rhythms and preferred working styles.  For me, that is to fill the morning with productive time, so I have a sense of getting things done, and ticking things of that ‘to do’ list.  See I love lists – so can you. – James Hempsall OBE: workstyle-lifestyle (workstylelifestyle.blog) The afternoons?  Well, any distraction will do – believe me.  As will offering support to colleagues, listening and talking.  My client wasn’t too sure.  He remained reluctant to let go.  Sceptical even.  The idea of an hour away from the inbox was sort of terrifying for him.  His fear was one of ‘missing out’ (FOMO).  He asked – what if there was something urgent and he missed it?  We settled on the principle that if something was truly urgent, someone would ‘phone as well!  That worked.  That cognitive reprogramming was enough to effect the change needed.  And it is a useful theory to apply.

Then there is the matter of quantity.  Another client of mine complained she was getting too much email.  It is a fair point and completely understandable.  Again, the impact was a sense of being overwhelmed and overly obligated to the needs of others.  For me, there were a few things that came up as useful solutions to what is a common issue.  First is about how we ‘feed the monster’.  Have you not noticed that the more email you send the more you receive?  You may have returned from time off or a holiday and been relieved that there wasn’t as much email traffic as you might have feared.  That’s good if you do, and it proves the theory.  You want to get less email?  Send less.  Think twice or three times if an email is needed.  Pick up the phone to bring some variety to the day. 

If this doesn’t resonate, then there are other practical ideas.  The first is use software tools, because they can sort your inbox into folders and automatically file emails into them.  It amazes me how many people do not know this – if this is news, then look into it.  The advantage is that emails from certain people, or with particular titles, are sent to those folders that you can decide when to visit.  Essential for those regular newsletter emails and the like.  That allows for a little more filter and control.  You decide when to read those email, not the other way around. 

Another idea is to consider unsubscribing things that simply are no longer a priority, or change the frequency of emails you want to receive.  Sounds obvious.  But if they remain important, think about delegating to someone else – if you can.  They can receive those emails and alert you to anything interesting or take that project on.  And if all else fails, consider getting help.  Is there someone that can manually sort your emails?  They could answer the easy ones, bin the trash, and file those that need filing.  That leaves you with a sorted and organised inbox in priority order to deal with, when you decide that is.  I hope that helps. 

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels.com

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