Every morning I wake up and I create a vision for my day. I think about all of my have-tos, hate-tos, and want-tos and how I’m going to slay them all by day’s end. My intention is so strong at 7:59am just before I enter the office at 8am.
But as a recovering workaholic, one of my habits has been to check email the moment my work day starts. Once I do that, I’m immediately carried off into Never Ever Land doing something that wasn’t even on my radar for someone else.
My email became my clients’ and colleagues’ gateway to the top of my to-do list and as a result, my day becomes reactive rather than proactive.
I finally figured out that E.M.A.I.L. stands for…
When I was a kid, I lived off of 5,000 minute AOL disks. Email was social because of my age and stage of life. I remember getting my first email address and the sound of “You’ve got mail” excited me.
Now 9 out of 10 emails do the opposite. Instead of being excited, I get overwhelmed by the never ending flow. When I’m ready to sign out, two questions always come up for me:
1. How did work get done before email?
2. Is email really work?
Both of my parents were doctors, so they didn’t really need email to do their daily work. They got paid to use their heads through their hands. As part of the knowledge economy, I get paid for what’s in my head and thoughts and ideas are more portable than a pair of hands. That’s why email can exist in today’s work world, but greater speed of communication doesn’t always mean greater results and an empty inbox doesn’t mean a fulfilling day.
Email is viral, especial in the business world. One email in a organization or team can trigger hours of work.
1. One person spends 10 minutes drafting an email. (10 minutes)
2. They send it to 10 team members who each take 5 minutes to read it. (50 minutes)
3. Three of them take 5 minutes to reply. (15 minutes)
4. All 10 team member take 3 minutes to read each reply. (90 minutes)
And so on…
The above scenario is 2 hours and 45 minutes of team time all because of one email. In fact, I’ve found that when I reply to emails quickly, I’m conditioning the sender to believe that I’m always immediately available for them and a quick reply from me becomes an expectation…that I established.
So on Monday, I tried something new. It’s not a new idea, but it is a new practice for me.
I committed to not checking email until after I finished something extremely important on MY TO DO LIST FIRST.
The task I chose ended up taking me 4 hours, so I didn’t reply to an email until after lunch. This is scary for workaholics because we feel like the world depends on us.Putting ourselves first is counterintuitive. We aren’t sacrificing enough if we are making other people wait. We can wait. That was my “logic” prior to this experiment.
But guess what, I did it and nobody died because I didn’t reply immediately. A Tom Cruise or Wil Smith end-of-the-world movie didn’t occur because of me. The world was fine—and so were my clients and colleagues.
Monday was so productive that I did it again on Tuesday. And it worked again.
In short, I’m simply putting first things first. But oftentimes, I find myself procrastinating on the most important thing with the second most important thing. Have you ever found yourself cleaning your home when you’re avoiding something that’s really important? We humans are funny like that.
I’m interested to know “How do you manage email throughout your day?” Comment here or email me. Your comments will inspire me and others.
Wishing you more happy hours,