Do you get out of bed and check your e-mail immediately? Do you check it again after breakfast? Have you ever been answering emails and suddenly realized you were late for something? E-mail is a great tool, and a potential time killer.
The problem is really simple, the minute you open your inbox, you give control of your time to other peoples priorities.
My first insights into the problems of instant communications occurred in 1990. Can you remember 1990? Pagers, cell phones the size of bricks and email that arrived once a week?
In 1990 I went on my first cruise, and 10 minutes out of the harbor my cell phone lost signal. 15 minutes out of the harbor my pager lost signal. I went into a panic.
After the initial shock wore off, and I realized I would be unreachable for the next four and a half days, I laid down to take a nap. Dinner was a 7:30 that night.
At 5:30 my wife woke me up and said “Time to Eat or I am going shopping.” The fear of the shopping bill woke me right up, and I noticed the time. Two hours until our seating time seemed a bit excessive. When I asked her about it she simply rebutted, “7:30 was dinner last night, it’s Saturday, Dinner is a 6:30 so get dressed”.
The stress of being on call 24/7 for the previous two years was all released in nearly 24 hours of sleep. Oddly my wife didn’t worry about me sleeping that long.
Like all addicts who skip the 12 step plan, I returned to my ways as soon as we hit the Port of Los Angeles. E-mail and Texts are the addictions that replaced my cell phone and pager.
For the last few years, my iPhone has been glued to me 24/7. It doesn’t need to be since I sold my service business several years ago. It just is out of habit. Well it was.
For the past 10 days I have tried an experiment while on “vacation”. Since my business partners were with us for the first 5 days, it isn’t a vacation like that cruise was, but it is still a vacation.
The experiment was to leave my phone in the hotel safe all day and go back to wearing a watch. I dug out an old Ironman water-resistant watch that I could wear everywhere without worry. It is at least 15 years old and looks like it belongs on a homeless man, but it works.
At the end of each day I would list four people whose email’s, voicemails or texts were important enough to interrupt my vacation and answer them. Instead of taking up to 2 hours each morning as I did at home, it took only about 20 minutes at the end of each day. It didn’t hurt that I was three hours later so by the time I replied, they had likely gone to sleep.
So far the experiment has appeared to have worked. 1700 emails received each day over 10 days. Since I wasn’t on the mainland, 1680 of them I couldn’t do anything about, and simply deleted en mass. The other 20 I was able to answer with a “yes”, “no” or forward it to the person who should have received it in the first place.
I realized how many lists I am on for no apparent reason. I have started to “unsubscribe” from them. There is also a person who is apparently a golf fanatic and is misspelling his email when he signs up for things, and I get at least 100 golf related email messages a day, all for golf courses in the south and east.
I am a headline junkie, a good email headline from a name I know will get me to sign up on their “list” to get the better email or the free report. It is a great technique and I use it myself, and we use it for our customers.
The five lists I am staying on are people I consider to be “mentors” or “coaches”. I pay them now or have paid them for training and do pay attention to what they have to say. The rest I signed up for just to watch the competition, and haven’t seen anything worth spending time on.
To solve the problem I turned my email over to my assistant. I gave her the list of five people I really follow and will read about one out of ten email blasts they send out. I then asked to be removed from all of the other lists, and set my spam filter to high. I might even go with a “whitelist” here soon. A whitelist only lets email through from people who are “pre-approved”. That one is tough because a potential new customer might get blocked. On the other hand all of my new clients this year have called, so maybe that isn’t important either.
If you run a service business, your lead foreman and your office manager should always know how to reach you. Otherwise, opening your inbox first thing in the day lets other peoples agenda’s and priorities move to the top of you list.
If you want to be more productive, stick to the essence of what you need to do, and keep moving forward. Don’t let other people send you email that stops you in your tracks.