Email often seems like a burden—at least when you’re on the receiving end of it. The average busy executive gets up to 30,000 pieces of external communication a year according to a recent report by Bain, much of it in the form of chirping, pinging email.
The hundreds (okay, thousands) of messages that can pile up in an inbox, screaming like electronic banshees for reply, take a toll on most office workers. But admit it: email can also be a delightful reward, a bright, shiny distraction in the middle of an otherwise grim day. “We all want to know what’s dropped into our inbox,” says productivity consultant Ann Gomez, president of Toronto-based Clear Concept Inc.
For every dozen messages that heap more items onto your to-do list, there’s a dancing cat GIF that’s bound to make your day. That’s why Gomez suggests using email as a motivator to get work done. “A lot of people promise themselves that they’ll go for a walk or go for a coffee once they’ve finished a chunk of work—both of which are fine,” she says. “But you’d be surprised at how enticing the idea of a peek at your inbox can be. If you don’t know what’s there, it’s more fun to dip into. It’s like a present—that anticipation is what’s important. You never know what you’re going to get.”
But once you do complete your task and claim your electronic prize, make sure that inbox check is efficient. Gomez recommends something called the One Touch Principle: Once you’ve read a message, deal with it. That could mean answering it, deleting it or moving it into another folder for action later. But don’t read it and leave it in your inbox, because you’ll just have to read it again when you come back to it later.
If you assume that an office worker gets 60 emails a day (a number that many would find conservative), and that each one takes 30 seconds to read, the cumulative time it would take to reread them all amounts to 30 minutes a day—or several hours each week. “That’s time that could have been spent at the gym or working on a project, or sleeping—you name it,” Gomez says.
So learn to take a quick scan of your inbox to see what you want to open, and stick to things that look either enticing or urgent. “If you’re not prepared to deal with it,” she says, “don’t open it.”
MORE EMAIL MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES:
- The Real Reason Your Email Inbox is Always Full »
- Why You Should Only Check Your Email Three Times a Day »
- The 9 Simple Rules of Email Mastery »
- Why We’re Addicted to Email »
- The Agonizing Art of Email Etiquette »
Is email a chore or a reward for you? What’s your message management strategy? Let us know using the comments section below.