When email first came out, I loved it! It meant that I rarely needed to talk on the phone any more, and for and intovert, it was pure heaven. Although email clearly has it’s shortcomings, it made my life a lot easier and less stressful.
However, over the past 15 years, email has taken up a larger and larger part of my time. Now I even have it on my phone so I can check it anywhere and everywhere! For me, it email moved from being convenient (I can check it whenever I have time) to a bit all encompassing. So over the past couple of years I have started making a few changes (mostly based on Merlin Mann’s Zero Inbox).
A few changes I made right off the bat were:
1) Turning off email notification (knowing that there is an email sitting there, and has not been dealt with, activates my OCD)
2) I changed my email program so that rather than checking for mail every 5 minutes, it checked once/hour. (although I’ve moved back and forth on that one.
3) I turn my work relatied emails off on my vacations & days off. I have a family email (no you can’t have it), and that is the only one I check, if I check it at all. (I do give that our to a couple of staff people with the understanding that they will only use it if it is really crucial to contact me.)
4) Finally, I’ve worked to clear out my inbox and keep it at zero at all times. (best ideas I got for this came from Randy Pausch.)
Those things worked pretty weel, and I found my tendency to get distracted during the day lessened. Then of course I got an iPhone, and my mail icon was present on every screen telling me how many individual notes were waiting for my attention. I would check it first thing in the morning, and shortly before going to bed. (I don’t know about you, but I find a streess inducing email right before you go to bed, it not helpful in getting me to sleep.)
The biggest issue for me, was that if I allowed myself, I could spend hours at a time, dealing with email…that was a waste of time that I can’t really afford anymore.
So, while I was on vacation the past couple of weeks, I decided to experiment with a couple of things (got a few of these ideas from Timothy Ferriss and The 4-Hour Workweek ):
1) First, I will check email twice each day. Once late morning, once, shortly before the end of the work day.
2) I moved the mail icon on my iPhone from the bar on the bottom of the phone, to one of the back pages, so I don’t have to notice the icon.
3) I am going to use the phone rather than do some of the time wasting back & forth emails I used to do.
[side note: want to hear something really pathetic? When James & I used to be the only two on staff at the church, we shared an office in my house. we would sit back to back at our desks & email each other rather than talking…like I said, email=introvert heaven.]
So that is my plan to deal with my email and de-stress my life a bit. If you are someone I frequently email with, you might think, “I emailed bob 20 minutes ago & I haven’t heard back. I wonder if he’s dead!” Don’t worry, I’ll get to it.
How are you dealing with email?