Spend Less Time On Emails

Time management suggestions for consultants that live in their inboxes.

Just finished reading "The Power Of Less" by Leo Babauta, after a friend sent me the book. It's a pleasant read on the importance of limiting ourselves to the essential. And a reminder that having a lot to do isn’t the same as actually getting a lot done.

One section of the book is especially relevant for consultants that live in their inboxes. I know consultants who spend 2 to 3 hours every day on their emails. I'm sorry to say that but, if that's you, something's wrong.

Babauta lists suggestions to boost our efficiency and minimize the time we spend on emails. Here are some of them, alongside my comments:

  • Reduce the number of inboxes to one by pooling together all your email addresses. (easy to do, and important if you manage +3 accounts)
  • Go through your emails as quickly as possible and, whenever you open your inbox, always empty it out. (archive emails after reading or replying to them)
  • Set yourself deliberate boundaries, such as deciding to only read your email twice a day. (I personally only do emails at 11:00 and 16:00, and agree with clients to only use phone or private messaging for urgent issues)
  • Don’t read your email when you can work productively; instead, read them during your lunch break and after you get off work. (it's incredibly important to block time on your calendar for deep, uninterrupted work)
  • Turn off all notifications and only read emails when you want to, not when the sender wants you to. (I'd also add: keep your cellphone away, otherwise you will check for new messages at least 40 times/day)
  • Reduce the flow of incoming emails by deleting all irrelevant messages immediately, as in forwarded images or joke emails. (also unsubscribe from things that are not relevant to you, such as retail promotions or social media alerts)
  • Set up a filter to sort out certain senders. (useful if you oversee different practices and/or run different businesses)
  • Set up a folder where you can send unimportant things that you can go through at the end of the week. (this is the most difficult suggestion to put into practice since it requires adopting a strong weekly review habit)

The author also reminds us how important it is not to use our inbox as a to-do list. Once you read an email, get it out of your inbox. If it requires any action from you, take care of it immediately or create a separate note on your task management tool.

How many of these ideas have you tried?

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