Oh email…yup I know it’s a pain in the ass for you. It’s like that for me sometimes as well. I’ve been on an email diet for a while, but there is more to dealing with email than a diet.
It all starts with how you handle email.
If you’re a GTD person you’re going to recognize a bunch of this from David Allen’s book. If you’re not that’s where much of this is from, go read the book.
Handling email by not handling it
One of the first mistakes that most of us make with email (even me some days) is just scanning it and not dealing with it. You open your email client and the first thing you see is a pain so you close it.
The email didn’t go away, you just are thinking about it now instead of dealing with the issue at hand. Awesome job, waste that brain power.
Another way we just don’t deal with our email is by checking it from places where we simply can’t deal with it. For me that’s my phone and since I use OmniFocus so heavily and MailPlane I just can’t push things from email to OmniFocus easily from my phone.
On top of that I’m typically just sitting downstairs and was at my desk where I could deal with it. Why on earth am I checking my email from a place I can’t deal with all of it?
Why on earth are you?
How we deal with it
Second up is how we deal with email, typically just picking out the most urgent or easiest items from the list instead of dealing with them in order. First to last or last to first doesn’t matter the practice of dealing with them in order is the important part.
Open your email and start at whichever end you prefer and work all the way to the other side of your email.
Dealing with an email doesn’t mean that you are going to answer it right away, it just means you decide how it’s going to be dealt with. For me that means pushing client emails into OmniFocus to deal with when I’m working on their project for the day. Anything that can be dealt with in under 2 minutes just gets a response.
Taking this approach of dealing with email only when I can actually do something about it and being systematic about how I deal with it took loads of stress of my back.
What’s your email system? Do you even like email?