Email Management – love it or hate it

When I gave this presentation recently I started by saying that the email experience is different for everyone – some people get maybe 10 emails a day while others get 100 or more. Each situation needs a different approach to managing email.

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7 habits of highly organised office workers

I often walk past people’s desks that are cluttered with paper, food, empty coffee cups etc and wonder how they manage to work in such a mess.

I’ve also seen what the desks of high achievers look like when they’re busy.  I’ve noted some of their habits and share them with you here.

  1. Start the day by planning what you expect or hope to achieve by the end of the day. This can be a written list or just a mental note.
  2. Check your emails before you start your first activity or task.  Deal with them as appropriate (see Good Habits around Email).  Check emails again at lunch time and again late afternoon if you need to.
  3. Turn off email alerts do you don’t get distracted mid-task.
  4. Gather the information you need for the first activity and get going.
  5. As you complete a task, sort out the related papers and bin or file them. Save and close down related electronic files, emails and applications.
  6. Mentally prepare yourself for the next piece of work.  Take a break – grab a coffee, fill your water bottle.  Go for a walk and get some fresh air – even 5 minutes round the block works wonders to clear your head.
  7. Stop whatever you’re doing 5-10 minutes before you need to leave. Spend that time tidying your desk, closing down desktop applications, binning and filing papers. Taking this time will set you up really well for the next day.

By now you’ll be dissing this blog as fairy tale land. You’re thinking how  can you possibly focus on tasks when there are so many interruptions in the course of your day – how do you deal with phone calls, people stopping by to chat, not to mention meetings etc.

How can you stop work a few minutes before you leave when it will only take you another few minutes to finish off what you’re doing. (That’s a hard one that I really really relate to. I hate leaving a job before it’s finished.  But I have learnt to manage that over time).

Maybe you can leave a bit later, catch a later train or bus. Bit more tricky if you car pool or have to pick up a child from day care or similar.

So I suggest you use these ideas to work out how you can create a habit that works for you.

PS – My desk isn’t necessarily tidy at all times during the course of a day.  I do clear the papers and close documents, web pages etc when I complete a job.  And I do tidy my desk at the end of the day.  It makes such a difference in the morning to make a fresh start, even if I’m finishing off something from the day before.