I recently finished reading The 4-Hour Workweek (full review here). Among many things, it reminded me that I should not be checking my email constantly. I had heard this message several times in the past, but realized that I could improve my email habits. Before reading the book, my email habits were as follows:
Good Email Habits
- Used Getting Things Done (GTD – review here) to achieve inbox 0 daily
- No notification (sound/icon) of new email
- Email available on phone, but only refreshed when I manually request new messages. Only check if I am waiting on something important off hours
Bad Email Habits
- Checked email first thing in the morning
- Leave email open all day
- Check email on a random schedule (sometimes every few minutes)
I used to receive ~200 emails per day. With a recent switch in my job role, I now receive ~50-75 per day. This switched helped, but I knew that I could be more effective.
- Created an auto responder that is always on. Below is the one that I use.
I have received your message. Please be advised that I can only check email a few times a day and may not be able to respond right away. In order to not delay you, please use the following options if you require faster assistance.
If you have an issue or questions about [removed] or the [removed], please enter a request [link removed] and the [team removed] team will assist you. Also be sure to check out the [wiki] and [training video website].
If your matter requires urgent assistance (please double check to make sure that it’s urgent), send me an im and I will respond to you as fast as I am able to.
- Only process email twice per day at 11:30 and 3:30 (my work hours are 7:30-4:00).
- Created some FAQ pages and Training Videos of common questions that I was receiving
Results After 2 Weeks
To be honest, I was a little nervous about this experiment. I was normally on top of email and responding continuously. What would happen if I did not do this? What concerned me more was how many people would complain about my auto repond message and getting it potentially every day?
- The world did not fall apart. I have not had 1 single person complain, and actually have had a few comment on how smart it is (but of course they could never do it for xyz reason)
- Emails, on average, are less than 50 a day. This is down from the most recent 50-75 per day, and from previous several hundred per day.
- I feel (and am) much more productive. Before I ever even look at an email, I have several hours of time to focus on the most important tasks.
- I am getting less questions. People must be getting their answers via the FAQ website and training videos.
- I still get the “twitch” to check my email. Some of this is just the habit that I need to change. Some of it is also some minor distraction to break up focus on work. I now instead take a walk and grab some coffee if I need a break.
Overall I am amazed with the differences. I plan to continue with both the auto responder and the batch/queue approach to checking email. I would highly suggest that anyone who feel chained to their email give it a try.