Occasionally, I forget why email was a good idea. Since the first email system evolved circa 1965, thanks to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, email has become a vital and overwhelming part of an entrepreneurs day. In fact, email surpassed the use of the telephone in 2007. Although email devours the hours in our day, interrupts projects, messes with productivity, scatters our focus, and is a constant source of irritation, like any good relationship, we can’t live with it and we can’t live without it.
Email, and it’s impact on productivity, has been the subject of numerous articles, books, and blogs. The experts tout the countless strategies for mastering email like prioritize messages, set up filters, use shortcuts, and reply immediately yet most people feel trapped by the constant email conundrum.
A study done at the University of London found that constant emailing reduces mental capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test. It’s similar to missing a night’s sleep. For those who “think” they can email while carrying on a phone conversation, scientist Harold Pashler showed that when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an MBA to that of an eight-year-old. (I do believe I’ve spoken with them.) In the final analysis of how to be more productive with email, there is one common denominator that continually is overlooked – YOU!
I recently made this discovery. I realized that I was the biggest roadblock to my own email productivity. I was the one who kept my email program open throughout day. I was the one who clicked send/receive more times than I could count during an hour. I was the one who toggled between my projects and my email program. I was the one who believed my clients wanted an instant response. I was the one with all the productive email strategies in place yet I had remained horribly unproductive with email.
Once I unearthed this dirty little secret, one simple adjustment in my email habits transformed my productivity – I added the following message to my email signature, “PS I respond to email once a day. If this is urgent, please call” – and I stick to it.
How often do you need to respond to email? Do your clients expect an immediate response? How did they develop that expectation? Given the nature of your business and your clients current expectation, you may not feel as though you can respond to email once a day. Can you respond twice a day? 3X a day? Email productivity is about two things – shifting your mindset and managing your client expectations. Like a baby be weaned from a pacifier, you both may need time to adjust.
Are you planning to implement a new email response schedule? If so, we’d love hearing from you.
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