Timers Are for Toddlers, Or Are They? | My War Against Email Clutter (Part 2)

Too Much Email

Look Familiar? Too Much Email Clutter! Photo Courtesy of Due by Monday

We have too much email clutter, it has distracted our productive energy, and it has defined our new work life. Remember when email began? And the  You’ve Got Mail inspired  giddy excitement? It was like magic. We were COMMUNICATING via the computer! Flash forward 15 years.  Ding You’ve Got Spam. Reply to All. Solicitations. Nonsense. Drudgery. Wasted time. We now get sucked into the EMAIL RABBIT HOLE OF HELL (screamed by George Carlin).

Lest we not forget the wasted opportunity costs. Time spent on email was NOT time spent on important things like reading, conversations, relationships, thoughtful contemplation, or writing. And what about the constant disruptions? Well, let me say that it’s hard to complete a well crafted sentence, let alone document, when the email balloon is interrupting my space.

I’d like to say that I’m disciplined (said the girl who finds it nearly impossible to drink water every day). Of course I can turn off my email. But alas… day after day… week after week…  I find it hard saying no to noise and needless interruptions.

I was hooked. I’d spend HOURS of each day reacting to email and  have nothing to show for my digital tether. Even after I made great progress in slashing the volume of email, I was still spending hours on it, and it had to stop.

The answer? A timer. It was that simple.

Now I’m a little-by-little gal. I knew that I couldn’t go from HOURS to MINUTES, but I had to start somewhere. So for me, I allowed my self three times to check my email for 45 minutes each time. (I know that doesn’t sound too disciplined, but I was terrified that I would miss something important.) And when it buzzed, I would close my email program. Period.

It. Was. Very. Very. Hard.

During my off times I soooooooo wanted to fire up the program to see what I had missed. I was surprised at how hard it was to resist the temptation. I was stunned at how limited my attention span had become. I think I even twitched a few times, and I’ve definitely relapsed a few more.

But over time it got easier. And you know what? I was never in a situation where I responded too late. Never. Now I can pop on two or three times per day for 30 minutes (sometimes less) and be just fine. The world still turns. I’m less frazzled. And I’m getting important work done. My actual time devoted to various tasks actually reflects my work values and priorities. So at the end of the day, I feel a sense of satisfaction.

This has definitely been a process for me. Check out my first step on the email clutter battle: Tackling the Volume | My War Against Email (Part 1). I’ll have more to come soon that addresses a “filing” and “action” system that has worked wonders for me.

Helpful Tips for Clearing Out Email Clutter:

Do you have any tips for reducing email clutter?

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  1. I get so distracted when I hear that little noise telling me I have a new message:) So… it has been so long since I stopped working that back then email was not nearly as popular as the good old fashioned phone call. I hate email clutter as much as I hate all clutter.
    Karen@WaistingTime recently posted..Just When I Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water

    • Kris says:

      I remember when the sound was “new” on computers – now its just annoying (unless its pandora LOL).
      Clutter begone – for sure – my house clutter is building up again
      And my mind clutter? ALWAYS a battle!

  2. GAAH. I got antsy just reading this :)

    I have ZERO tips, I need to spend some time on my email…
    Kristina @ spabettie recently posted..peanut butter chocolate cupcakes

  3. Coco says:

    After being really busy, and then out of the office for several days in a row, my in-box has gotten out of hand again. Funny how I think of you when I decided to tackle that problem! I try to only check emails between projects (every few hours), and then read and delete or save somewhere else.
    Coco recently posted..Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running By Haruki Murakami

    • Kris says:

      I just love that you think of me when you look at your inbox **warm fuzzy**
      And yes – being away for a while is TORTURE!
      Glad you’re batching and DELETING :D

  4. I have become a HUGE fan of timers! I set them for my time to write blog-posts, so I don’t get distracted by things like (coughcough) Twitter. Hehe. ;)

    Timers have helped me become more productive. I always leave my email up and open. Mainly because I hate logging in and out. For some reason mine won’t stay logged in.
    Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun recently posted..Biting The Bullet Part 2

    • Kris says:

      Dang twitter…. I’m so glad someone else is using timers – I don’t know when i became undisciplined…. But


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