Managing inbox overload - when to check your email to save your energy

If you’re like most people, then the answer to “when do you check your email at work?” Is probably “constantly”. 

We know we need time to do our important work, but research shows us that we keep our email open all day and check in once every 37 minutes on average. 

What a waste of time when 99% of emails do not need urgent responses.

Notifications don’t help

Email apps don’t help here. 

Think about how many notifications you get when you receive one email:

  • Desktop slide-over in the bottom right corner of your screen, telling you you’ve received an email, who you’ve received it from, and showing a tantalising preview of what they’re saying.
  • An icon of a little unread email now hovers over the Outlook app icon, hinting at a problem that needs to be resolved.
  • A little “bing” sound plays if the icon and notification weren’t quite enough.

For one email. 

This email could be anything. An urgent request from your CEO, or a boring update or promotion from a company you signed up to 5 years ago but no longer care about. But you’re getting 3 different attention-grabbing reminders that you need to check it immediately. 

And this is only email. We also have to deal with Teams/Slack notifications as well!

Your work should be on your terms. Hopefully, it’s easy to see how toxic the current system is on your mental capacity to focus on your high priority work.

It doesn't have to be this way

Instead, let’s imagine an alternative. You have a two hour calendar booking blocked out to focus on your most important task as soon as you start work. You’ve turned off all notifications as you know that every message will still be there when you check your inbox at 11:00 and you can reply then. 

Two hours of uninterrupted work is a huge amount of time to make massive inroads to your projects on your terms. Then, when 11:00 comes round, you open your inbox and sort through the items you’ve received, either sorting, sending two-minute replies or marking for further work if necessary.

Your work on your terms

This process of carving out time for specific activities and sticking to them is known as batching. You will easily reclaim time and mental energy and reduce stress by being more intentional with your time.

Even just closing your email for a few hours and turning off notifications could be the difference between feeling the strain of another day of dealing with other people’s problems to leaving work on time and feeling like you made progress. Everything will still be waiting for you in 120 minutes. Seriously. Try it.

Worried that your speedy response is too important to those you’re working with closely? Or what your manager might think? If they’re considerate colleagues, then they should be willing to wait a few hours for a response. If not, let them know beforehand that you’re trying to regain some focus time and send them your number for urgent tasks only.

38x Better daily gains - Batch your emails this week

Your daily gains this week are to batch your emails. Book some 2-hour slots in your calendar, tell your manager, turn off your notifications and power through your most important jobs. 

Stay strong.

At the end of the week, get a pen and paper or a Notes app and write down 3 improvements you’ve noticed from batching your emails. 

Let me know how you get on.

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