Reply to emails.
It took just 4 emails to schedule a meeting.
Read more emails.
OK, inbox looks manageable. It’s lunch time, I should eat.
Reply to emails.
OK, time to get some real work done.
Oh, it’s 4:00pm already? Where did my day go?!?
I was tired of this email cycle and email completely overtaking my carefully crafted to-do list every day. I was also tired of the back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth it usually takes to just get a meeting on the calendar.
There had to be a better way.
I set about solving this problem like I would any other problem, and I made a list of exactly what I didn’t like:
- Too much attention to emails that undermined my daily plans.
- Not being able to resist the temptation of checking emails on weekends, and then having my personal time invaded by nagging thoughts of what I need to add to my to-do list.
- Spending way too many emails back and forth just to get a 30-minute call on the calendar (and it probably took more than 30 minutes just to get that 30-minute call on the calendar).
- Having an hour blocked for a call that took 15 minutes, leaving me with 45 minutes before another meeting. That 45 minutes usually became unproductive email time.
- Random 15 or 30-minute calls smack-dab in the middle of an otherwise open 3 or 4-hour block of time that I really could have used for intense project work.
I was able to solve problem #1 and problem #2 with Inbox Pause (and I love that I could solve 2 problems with the same solution!). Inbox Pause holds all of my emails and only delivers them to me according to the schedule that I set. No more being bombarded with new emails every minute of every day! During a work day, emails are delivered to me 3 times per day, and I block my calendar around those times so that I can read, act on, and file the messages. For all of the other parts of the day, I am blissfully email-free with the mental time and attention I need to focus on current projects.
But what about emails that are urgent, and can’t wait a few hours? Or urgent emails that are sent late on a Friday night that really can’t wait until Monday morning? Yes, I shared those concerns too. I solved it with an auto-reply letting people know that I only receive emails a few times per day and inviting them to call or text me if the email is truly urgent.
I have been pausing my inbox for a few months now, and it has completely changed my workday and my productivity levels. It has also shifted my mindset to realize that emails support my work and projects, but they are not my work. Email is merely a tool that assists in exchanging information in a timely fashion. Email is just like talking on the phone to exchange information. If you wouldn’t answer your phone for a work call at 10pm on a Tuesday or 5am on a Friday or 7pm on a Saturday, why are you answering your emails at that time?
With the success of solving my email challenges behind me, I then set out to solve my calendar challenges too … stay tuned!
How do you approach time management? Do you break it down into smaller pieces to solve? What are your best productivity tips?