Are You Under the Control of Your Email?
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Do you control your email, or does it control you?
Here are the symptoms of when email controls you:
The first thing you do in the morning is open your email. You’re checking your email at breakfast. You’re checking email at a red light. You’re deep into email at your desk shortly after you sit down. Before you realize it, an hour of your day has evaporated. You react instantly to the “you’ve got mail” ding, whistle, or beep on your computer and phone.
If so, you've got fear of missing out (FOMO).
You believe that every email is of life-or-death importance and that people expect an instant reply.
Email is not of life-or-death importance. People don’t expect an instant reply.
Love it or hate it, email is here to stay, so take some time to get a grip on it. So often my coaching clients tell me they have thousands of emails in their inbox, but it works for them. They say it doesn’t bother them to have that many because at least know they can find something. Perhaps it works…until something falls through the cracks. Something important.
Then panic sets in. Cue the excuses.
Email is a vital part of our daily communication. We must learn how to use it properly. The number one thing to know about email is the difference between checking email and processing email. We all check our email a thousand times a day – on our phone, tablet, computer, etc. But checking it only clutters your head and your inbox. Processing your email involves taking that next step of acting on it.
When you process your email, you either DELETE, ACT, FORWARD or FILE it.
DELETE Do you need this email? If not, trash it. Ask yourself, “if I go to find this email and it’s not there, what’s the worst thing that can happen to me?” If you can live with the answer, DELETE IT! Avoid the clutter and let it go.
ACT NEWS FLASH! Your inbox is not a storage unit! It was designed to hold only emails that require ACTION. That’s it. If there’s action associated with an email, then keep it in your inbox. Your inbox soon begins to turn into a to-do list.
FORWARD Yep, this is an action as well, but it doesn’t take much time. Once you determine an email should be forwarded, pass it on. Then you can delete it and move on.
FILE Leverage the filing capabilities in your inbox by right-clicking for new subfolders to store all your emails just like you would in a file cabinet. This helps you’re your inbox stay organized and clutter-free and, at any given time, you can easily find what you need.
To control your email, create new email habits. Here's a list of action items you can implement …today!
- Turn off ALL notifications! Yes, all of them. They interrupt your thought process way more than you know. Remember, you don't deliver insulin. They'll call if it's that important.
- Unsubscribe. Every client tells me they get so many emails that they never read but they are afraid they’ll miss something (FOMO in action). Unsubscribe from lists that you no longer want or enjoy. You’re welcome.
- Schedule time to process your email. This is usually a low-energy task, so schedule it appropriately. First thing in the morning might not be your best option.
- Process your email daily. Don’t let your email pile up. It will become an overwhelming chore to go through it all at once.
- Close your email program when you are not using it. That way it won’t pull you in so easily. Or at the very least, turn off ALL notifications – see #1.
- Put aside your personal and non-urgent messages for last. These can take you away from important work.
- Use filters. Many email programs have filters that allows you to route messages from specific recipients or containing keywords into pre-determined folders. Result? Uncluttered inbox.
- Mark emails as unread or use follow-up flags. If an email needs action, mark it as unread or use a follow-up flag that will signify that you still need to deal with that email. Try to keep your inbox as empty as possible.
- Make friends with your delete button. Don't be afraid to get rid of something unless you know you will need it later.
- When sending email, keep it simple. Use email to your advantage, but consider if a phone call may be easier and less time consuming than playing email tag.
Remember: any time you check your email, make a conscious effort to process it. Don’t just read it and jump to the next one. Process it first with DELETE, ACT, FORWARD, or FILE.
Be the boss of your inbox and take control of your email before it takes control of you.
Patty Kreamer, CPO® helps overwhelmed financial advisors take control of their brain clutter, calendar, to-do list, inbox, interruptions and anything blocking productivity. She is a productivity coach, speaker, Certified Professional Organizer®, author of four books and partner at Productivity Uncorked, LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in helping financial advisors take control of their practice and uncork their referrals. Email Patty or connect with her on LinkedIn.