‘A vampire is a creature from folklore that subsists by feeding on the vital essence of the living.’ – Wikipedia
We all have vampires in our lives. Time vampires! And the biggest vampire of all is your inbox.
You know what I’m talking about – you plan your day, have it all set out the evening before, and then the first thing you do in the morning is check your inbox. You see something in there that belongs in the urgent, but not important box – an e mail from a client or a supplier, or one of your team – and you dive right in – react, react, react – and when you next look up, most of your day is gone!
Your inbox has completely derailed your day, and you blame what was in there for the frustration you now feel, having not achieved what you set out to…again!
The truth is though, when you lose your day to your inbox, it’s on you. You’ve allowed yourself to become a victim of the biggest time vampire of them all – and you’re not a victim – so let’s give you back control.
The first thing I want you to do is reframe the way you think about your inbox. It’s not necessary to answer your e mails in a millisecond. What would happen if you were on a day off, or in an all day meeting, or ill, or somewhere with terrible wifi?
There is very little that is life and death, or business-threatening, in your inbox – nothing that can’t wait an hour or two – some things in fact, that would benefit from you sitting on them, thinking them through, and not leaping in with an immediate reaction or over-reaction. If something was that urgent, you’d get a call.
Switch off your notifications
Second thing – switch off your notifications. Very difficult for you if you like to feel connected all the time, but worth it if you’re looking to protect your time and be more productive.
Notifications are the ‘Can I just…?’ interruptions in electronic form, so we need to switch them off or risk being ruled by our ‘ping’.
Check and deal with e mails twice a day
Remember ‘batching for energy matching’ from last week’s blog, and set two time slots a day, maybe 11-12.30 and 3.30-4.30, where you check and deal with your e mails.
Put an automated message on your e mail that tells anyone who contacts you, ‘Thanks for your e mail, please be aware that I only check and answer my e mails twice a day, so please be patient, I will get back to you.’ And then stick to it!
Be disciplined. You don’t need to be in there all the time, reacting, reacting reacting.
Follow the four folder strategy
When you are working in your inbox, ask yourself 3 questions:
1. What does this e mail mean to me and why do I care? Is it important to me?
2. What action do I need to take? Do I need to take any action?
3. What’s the best way to deal with this e mail and its content? Do I have to do anything.
Then based on the answers to these questions, put each e mail in one of these four folders:
Folder 1 – Action required
For e mails that need you to complete a task or follow-up.
Add these tasks to your urgency/importance matrix* in the appropriate box, and visit this folder at a set time every week to archive e mails containing tasks that have been completed.
Folder 2 – Awaiting response
For e mails you expect important responses to, maybe from a client, a team member, your boss.
Again, visit this folder every week – did you get the response? Does that response mean there’s now an action required? Does the e mail string now need to move to the action required folder?
Folder 3 – Delegated
For e mails you’ve delegated to others.
Use your delegation worksheet to keep a track of what has been delegated and to who, and when the task needs to be completed.
Folder 4 – Archived
For e mails you want out of your inbox without deleting them completely.
To get your inbox to zero…
Delete – Ask ‘is this relevant to me?’ ‘Am I just cc’d?’ ‘Is it something in the four folders that I can now get rid of?’
Do – Ask ‘Can I deal with this in two minutes?’ If so, do it, do it now, and don’t put it off.
Defer – Will it take longer than two minutes? If so, which of the four folders does it belong in?
Do one thing: Protect yourself from your time vampires – either buy some garlic or follow the steps above.
NB Your personal productivity is a key element of your Personal Management and Development System which is step 8 of a 9 step roadmap we lead our clients along. One clear path which builds 7 critical systems in your business and ensures that you, your team, and your operation have a complete workable blueprint for scale.
To learn more about the 9 steps that will move you from frustrated fire-fighter to freedom from the day to day of your business, visit: https://www.mariannepage.co.uk/chaos-to-consistency.html