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:
- 43 Folders | Inbox Zero
- How to Clear a Massively Cluttered Inbox | Dumb Little Man
- 4 Steps to Banish Email Clutter | Think Simple Now