Balancing Work, Life and Email

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It’s Monday morning and as you get closer to the office, your mind turns not to the day ahead but to what level of email churn awaits you. You spend your Sunday evening, trying to filter out the undone work from the week before the ease the pathway into the week but it become an all too familiar routine at this stage of the week. Does this sound familiar or do you feel that it is a sinking sandpit that you exist in? Given the amount of focus on the e-mail storm, it got us thinking about the balance between work, life and now email.

Reading and responding to all mail takes a long time, and most of the other work takes a back seat to this daily chore. So the question that I would like to pose is the new balance may not be work-life but rather work, life and now e-mail. Without doubt e-mail is an incredibly useful communication tool but many of us feel overwhelmed by the amount of mail that we receive and need to respond to. However, there are ways to manage your email so that you’re more productive. So let’s explore strategies for doing this, so that you can get on with the real work at hand and in turn focus on the true balance of work and life and let e-mail not be a factor in all of this.

So here are some tips of get to grips with the e-mail onslaught. Naturally enough, we would be very interested and excited to hear your own tips. The problem with email is sometimes not the volume but the constant interruption and distraction that comes from multitasking in this way can dramatically lower your productivity, and disrupt your ability to enter a state of flow when working on high value projects. Checking your email regularly during the day can be an effective way to keep your inbox at manageable levels but this again can cause a certain amount of havoc as it creates a state of interruption and times of where this cannot be achieved.

So to our tips of managing the e-mail:

  1. Limit the productivity loss by checking email only at set points during the day. For instance, you may decide that you’ll only check your email first thing in the morning, before lunch, and at the end of the day. Here, it helps to set your email software to “receive” messages only at certain times, so that you’re not distractedby incoming messages. If you can’t do this, at least make sure that you turn off audible and visual alerts.
  2. Reserve time in your calendar to read and respond to email after a long period of focused work, or at the time of day when your energy and creativity are at their lowest (this means that you can do higher value work at other times). This can be done when you’re feeling least energetic, so that you can schedule time appropriately.
  3. Set boundaries with colleagues, work mates and others to ensure that they are not annoyed or confused that you’re not responding to their email quickly, explain that you only check email at certain times, and that they can call you or use instant messaging if the matter is really urgent.
  4. Use the two-minute rule when reading and replying to a mail. For example, if the email will take les
    s than two minutes to read and reply to, then take care of it right now, even if it’s not a high priority. The idea behind this is that if it takes less than two minutes to action, it takes longer to read and then store the task away “to do later” than it would to just take care of the task now.
  5. Organise e-mail and keep the inbox lean and mean. To organise mail, you could use broad categories titled “Action Items,” “Waiting,” “Reference,” and “Archives.” If you’re able to stay on top of your folders – particularly “Action” and “Waiting” folders – you could use them as an informal To-Do List for the day. This is a fantastic way of ensuring the time to continually search and organise that way-too long inbox is taken away from you and the focus is on action rather than anything else.

We hope these tips do help and give some food for thought on what to do and how to give yourself time and space back into your day.

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