Guest Post: Email Time Management Domination by Jessie Haynes

Carol Tice

Jessie HaynesThis week’s theme is better time management for writers. I’ve invited productivity columnist Jessie Haynes to tell us how to kick email addiction. Since picking up email once…per minute…is a real problem for me, I was anxious to get these tips!

For more on the email problem, see this great blog by Trust Agents co-author and wildly dominant blogger Chris Brogan.

Organized, Productive Email Time Management Domination That Works…Now!

By Jessie Haynes

Email is the source of stress and sorrow, so many freelancers say. Try this step-by-step overhaul of your current email practices and see if you can’t ease those woes.

1. Organize your email by function – as you read top to bottom (and you cannot skip anything in this process because you read each email once and once only as you process) and either move it to a folder that corresponds to that function or archive or delete the message and make a note in your task manager / planner / to-do list.

Functions could include:

-waiting – all of the things that require another action / event before you can do something about them. Tip: write down just what you’re waiting for in some note because you should rely on your brain for very little beyond thinking of something once and remembering where your reminder is.

– read

– research

– share

– and you get the point! Remember that no function means no reason to have the email: to the trash.

Sort through those emails in your inbox by what you need to do with them. After you’ve done this once, you should have everything sorted for future function-processing. Having your needs fulfilled for later inbox processing brings us to the next step in email time management domination…

2. Half your current email checking frequency, at least. Schedule your “processing and doing” sessions. Tip: you can always process immediately after a “do” (like when you get new emails as you’re sorting through what you have already) but you can never go to “do” while processing.

I say to strive to check your email only once per 24-hour period, but this is terrifying to most freelance writers. Because of how much time most freelancers are spending swimming in their email, this seems like a logical allotment. Theoretically, anyone properly processing and doing their inbox functions could check their email as much as would allow them to complete their tasks. Regular, proper processing means you can find your own balance. My once per 24-hour period rule may or may not make you more effective: find out for yourself just what will work for you.

3. Deliver the right amount of energy per message. Spending too little effort in a response backfires like dominoes with an email train messier than that simile, and too much effort just wastes your time. Be conscious of how much effort you expend.

4. Divorce immediacy and think like a business owner. You are your CEO–and janitor as Carol likes to say–of your own business and you don’t scurry forth at the whims and beckons of others. Organize your tasks and get to them as you sort them–conquer fuction by function after you’ve had time to sort them. Work on your own decided urgency. A business owner’s time is valuable. It is also just that, the business owner’s time and not anyone else’s.

5. Find your best practices. Telling you exactly how I manage my email won’t really do much for you–mileage varies. Your own trial and error alongside attentiveness, observation and flexibility will help you discover your ideal email policy.

Please, leave feedback. If you want some advice on your email situation, leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as I can!

About the Author: Jessie Haynes owns JHaynesWriter, Web writing services for the organization and productivity niche. 


  1. Liz

    Hi Jessie — Thanks for the tips. E-mail is a real bugaboo for me. I have trouble deciding what to do with them, and — in the case of my family, since they go to a separate folder, I don't throw them out as I should. I try to tame the in-box, really I do. SO I welcome your tips. (No way I could only deal with e-mail once a day though!) I'm also reading a book you might find valuable for even more tips for yourself as well: Master Your Workday Now by Michael Linenberger. It has e-mail master tips, plus other advice to taking control of the workday (including sorting tasks into four "urgency zones," so we get a sense of what is really important and what is not). He calls e-mail addiction a huge time-waster, by the way — you guys would agree on that!

  2. Jessie Haynes / JHay


    Thank you for stopping by. I want to apologize for my late response…I got married on Friday and this is my first full day back at work. I am happy that you found my tips useful and I want to thank you for recommending that book to me. I will definitely take a look at that book!

    Email is a huge, huge time waster, if you let me.

    If you feel like you cannot, absolutely cannot, check email once per day, I highly suggest that you master the processing steps I discussed in this blog post. Go through every email in your inbox, in order, and sort those actions, and review each of your function-oriented folders each time you process emails (before each check, I would say) and every time you check your email, do the same. You'll find yourself either a. checking email less or b. being much more productive with email.

    Please, feel free to ask any specific questions you might have. I am ready to answer your questions in a blog post and will take email questions and answer them within a business day. My email is

    I look forward to answering any more questions other freelance writers have about effective email time management!

    – Jessie

  3. Paris Video

    Hello. How are you, today? You have such a tidy blog. I have recently started my own website, and i have some problems with alot of generic comments to my posts. What do you use with your site, do you have these kind of issues too? Best wishes, Harald J. Fredik 🙂 , P.S sorry for bad english

  4. Carol Tice

    Hi Paris —

    Doing the blog in WordPress allows you to moderate…not totally sure your comment isn't kinda generic…but you bring up a good question! Before I was on another system and getting rid of spam comments was very difficult, it's one of the reasons I spun the blog off to this site and put it in WordPress.

    Best of luck with your blog —


  5. PiterJankovich

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool

    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?

    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

  6. trees

    Heya from Brazil! I have found your article on aol. Great content! Melissa M. Clayton x

  7. Carol Tice

    Hi Piter —

    Not sure if this question is for me or Jesse…but this blog is sort of a hobby for me…but a hobby I'm hoping is helping build an audience for forthcoming writing e-books I will be publishing. The first one, Make a Living Writing: The 21st Century Guide, I'm hoping to get out in April 2010.

  8. LED TV

    Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

    • Carol Tice

      I'm glad you ask. I often get people who'd like to share one of my blogs with their friends, and there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. Putting someone else's whole blog entry on your site is copyright infringement and decidedly uncool.

      The cool way to do it is to write a new introduction with your own comments or reactions to the blog, and then maybe post the first paragraph of my blog. Then LINK TO THE REST OF THE BLOG BACK ON MY SITE. You get credit for finding something interesting, I get a backlink, you grow the linky-ness of your own site, and everybody's happy.


  9. Dave

    Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

    • Carol Tice

      I feel like I keep answering this…but the correct way to do that, Dave, is to write a comment about the post on your site and then provide a link back to this site where people can read the full post. You can publish a line or two on your own site, and then link over. More than that is plagiarizing.

  10. Derek

    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing!

  11. sok noni

    I’ve been visiting your blog for a while now and I always find a gem in your new posts. Thanks for sharing.

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