This 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.
– 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.