Emails will always be right there at the top of the list whenever we want to list out important and effective business tools. I cannot even begin to imagine what our lives would be like without it. We would still have to be sending hand written letters by hand via post office service or send messages using a fax machine. None of these comes close to the efficiency and delivery speed of the email.
If you are an entrepreneur, the nature of the work you do and that of your staff absolutely means that you need to have a way to always be in touch with your staff and clients. Many times, you will need to receive or send reports and updates or send assignments to multiple staff members at once. Email is possibly the most efficient way to do that presently.
However, for all its good, email has become more of a crutch for many entrepreneurs, which means that it can very easily be abused and misapplied. We spend too much time checking our emails in the office or at home or on the go on our mobile devices which takes away from the time we have to achieve other tasks.
We also attempt to use email to replace other more personal means of communication by trying to use it to carry on a conversation, or discuss serious issues or worse still, try to get to know someone.
Just like social media platforms and other online communication tools, spending too much time on your email, can seriously shortchange your productivity both at work and in your personal lives. So if you can relate to this problem, here are a few ways you can kick your email addiction in the rear and out the door.
1. Make it difficult for you to check your email
What is the first thing you do when you lay down on your bed to retire for the night or when you open your eyes in the morning? Most people’s answer to this question is that they reach for their phones. Keeping your phone on the nightstand beside your bed will only serve to enable your email addiction.
Make a conscious effort to make checking your email more difficult than it is supposed to be. Do not sleep with your phone on the nightstand beside your bed, if it needs to be charged, find another wall outlet away from your sleeping area.
Do not access your email on a different tab on your browser. When you are done working with your email and need to deal with something else online, work with the same tab so that your email is no longer open, tempting you to return to it repeatedly.
Almost everyone has an email app on the home screen of his or her phone. Bury the app by deleting it from your home screen so it is not easily accessible. Find out other habits that you feel make email checking a breeze for you and establish measures to keep them at bay.
2. Reduce email interruptions
Your phone is most likely setup to notify you whenever you get a new email right? You definitely do not need this temptation when you are trying to kick your email addiction.
Go into your phone settings and turn off push notifications, do the same on your computer too. This will give you back some semblance of control over your email-checking schedule.
You could also install a plugin on your browser that you can use to send emails without having to connect to your inbox, as this will almost certainly distract your focus from whatever you were working on prior to checking your inbox.
If you find yourself carrying on an email conversation, move the conversation to another platform – a social media platform preferably – and close your email tab.
3. Disconnect from your inbox
If you want to attend to sensitive emails that may have come in, turn on your internet connection, download your emails and turn it off immediately. This way you can address them without further distraction from your email in the form of a reply, which could kick start an unproductive email conversation.
You can also take your time to review, reread and write down your reply to each mail so that when you connect again, you will not spend much time in your inbox. You will just spend a few minutes sending your already written replies after which you should disconnect immediately. This is definitely a great way of managing your emails for greater productivity.
4. Develop new habits to replace your email checking itch
As a certified email addict, you will always get that itch to check your email, whether you are alerted to do so or not. What do you do in times like these? You cannot just sit down and try to resist the urge. Find other activities to do whenever the itch comes upon you so that you do not stay idle, as this will most likely end up with you in your email inbox.
Such times when you get the itch could be on your commute to work, standing in line at a counter or any other downtime. At such times, you can listen to music or a podcast instead, strike up a conversation with someone near you or start any other task that you may have planned to do at a later time.
Setup an email checking schedule to help you deal with your email addiction. You could decide to check two to three times a day, to check once or not at all on the weekends etc. Using habit-forming apps and other productivity apps could help you consolidate these new habits. Apps such as 42goals, HabitForge, Coach.me, Loggr and HabitBull could help keep you accountable as you push towards your new habits.
Some of them are set up so nicely that you will have a group of accountability partners and you could even lose money whenever there is a lapse in your bid to achieve a set goal. Now that is motivation!
5. Reduce email clutter
Not every email or newsletter you subscribe to is worth your time. Most of us are subscribed to emails that we never get to read but they keep pouring in and taking up valuable space. When there is so much to attend to in your inbox it is difficult to be focused on the important stuff.
The obvious answer here is to hit the unsubscribe button as often as you need to so that you do not keep receiving junk and unnecessary emails. Also, prioritize emails you attend to. Is an email absolutely important? Is email the best medium to address it? If any of the answers is no, do not bother replying. This will in turn reduce the number of replies you have to deal with.
6. Address issues via channels other than email
Whenever a client or employee sends you an email and you always respond to them in person or over the phone, they soon pick up that email is not your favorite form of communication. They will now make it a habit to always contact you via the channels you use to get in touch with them.
The unintended bonus here is that there is less risk of missing out on important stuff because you are not connected to your inbox. All important information will get to you via calls or face to face.
7. Do not get bogged down by a relapse
This one is extremely important because it happens to everybody who is trying to kill an addiction of any sort. A relapse is not an excuse to not keep trying.
Even when you implement all the pointers above, you could still fail and find yourself glued to your computer screen for hours on end attending to emails. It happens – to the best and worst of us.
What do you do when this happens? Give up? Absolutely not! Go back to the beginning and start afresh. Get your addiction fighting groove back. Rinse and repeat all you did the first time until you get your addiction out of the way and get your life and productivity back. Failure is only truly achieved when you give up, so don’t!