Email tip: Only Process E-mail at Designated Times

In my experience, most people are overwhelmed by their e-mail. Throughout the day, they are bombarded with e-mail messages. Like a tennis match from hell, some feel obligated to hit every ball back across the net as soon as it lands in their court. Others eventually give up & allow the tennis balls to cover them up. Occasionally, they take a swing, but they can never seem to dig out from under the pile. Meanwhile, the never-ending assault of e-mail messages continues.
Enough of this madness! The problem is in the assumption. Contrary to popular opinion, there is not a law that says you must answer every e-mail as it is received. In fact, this is a sure-fire way to kill your productivity & end up becoming a slave to e-mail rather than using it as a tool to accomplish your work on your terms.

One simple way to do this is to schedule specific times of day to work on e-mail. For example, I check e-mail first thing in the morning, before I go to lunch, & at the end of the day. Since I use Outlook for things other than e-mail (e.g., calendaring, task management, etc.), I keep it running all day; I just work in offline mode. When I am ready to download e-mail at one of my designated times, I press F9, which initiates the Send/Receive All action. I then process each e-mail message. When I am done, I press F9 again to send any messages I have created.
The advantage of this is that I never work on e-mail for more than about 45 minutes a day. Using the two-minute rule, I handle any e-mail that can be done in less than two minutes. If I think it will take longer than that, I either add it to my task list or schedule a time to do it.


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