Monday, October 03, 2011

Kicking the Email Habit (Part 2)

Last week I wrote about how we experimented with kicking the email habit. We did this by not checking our emails before noon every day for one whole month (and this included our Blackberries).

Months ago I would have suggested that before trying this out you should get buy-in from some key people who might be affected: clients, colleagues etc. Now I say “forget the buy-in; your sanity is more valuable.” Just do it… you can tell them later.

An important exception is perhaps to encourage those you work with to do the same.

We realised we would never have kept up the discipline if we had not made the public commitment to each other.

Practical issues….

If you are thinking of weaning yourself off email or at least trying to manage it better, here are some of the practical issues you are likely to have to deal with, and some relevant questions to ask.

1.    "I'm afraid that a vital and urgent email will be missed". What is this fear costing you? How many emails never get delivered anyway? If it's a real emergency, they will probably call. If you had been on a morning training-course, you would not have been at your desk. How real is this?

2.    "Email is vital for completion of a task in hand". OK, go into the inbox, shield everything but the name of the person you are looking for, move the relevant email out to another folder ... and get out of the inbox asap!

3.    "Seeing the inbox filling up makes it very hard not to deal with it". True. So don't look at it. Set Outlook default to "Outlook Today" or similar.

4.    "Quick turnaround is vital to our customers". So is quality. Which is more important? Furthermore, our experience suggests that the more we focus our attention, the quicker we get things done and with better quality output.

5.    "I want to be connected all of the time". Why? Is this a psychological need, and if so how is this serving your clients? What are you not doing when dipping into the inbox for a look?

6.    "I might lose a customer". The biggest risk we all run is losing the A-customers we already have by not giving them enough attention. Much of this attention is sabotaged by the C's and D's who are often the source of the last-minute emails, marked "Urgent"

Have fun with this and remember – if you had a trip to the dentist this morning, that vital email would not have been opened until the afternoon anyway!

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