Do you feel like your email calls to you? It is a deceptive yet enticing pull into randomness. I hear it often. “Lynn, come check and see if that email you are waiting for has arrived.” Or I think, “Who has sent me an email and what do they have to say?” Have you ever opened an email and then asked yourself – “why did I do that – I am supposed to be working on this?”
Here is the Wikipedia definition of a Siren: “In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous yet beautiful creatures, portrayed as “femmes fatales” who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.” How many times a day does email flash its beautiful eyes and smile at you and you end up on the rocky shores of lost time and fractured attention.
Many of my clients complain about the amount of email they get and the expectation that it will be answered right away. And then there is Instant Message which is email squared. Our electronic means of communicating has tethered us to devices so that someone calling us on the phone to ask a question has become a novelty.
What’s the result? We lose our productivity and creativeness. We get lost in a maze of problems and someone else’s priorities. We are not really listening because we are answering emails while in a virtual meeting or even while someone is in our office meeting with us.
Do you feel scattered a lot of the time? Does it feel like there are pieces of you everywhere? Do you miss the creativity of being in the flow and losing track of place and time as you delve into something? Do you panic if you don’t have access to your phone or computer? These feelings are often a by-product of the incessant demand of email.
So, what can you do?
- Become more self-aware. Keep track of how many times in a day you look at your email.
- Get your email habits under control. Find what works best for you. How about only checking your email 3 – 4 times a day?
- Turn off the sound your computer makes when you get an email.
- Reduce your expectation of getting instant answers back from others.
- Set a timer and only answer emails for a set amount of time.
- If the answer is really important, make a phone call and then if you can’t reach the person, follow up with an email.
- Schedule uninterrupted time to work in a focused manner on a project.
- Send less email – don’t be a part of the problem.
For more tips on managing your email, read “The Hamster Revolution” by Song, Halsey & Burress.
Why do I think this is important? Because I see what a distraction email can be for me and how unproductive I feel. And I believe with some forethought and adjustment in habits we can change that. I want to pull the pieces of me back in so that I can bring all of me to what I am doing.
It would love for you to share some of your own productivity tips in the comments below.