Is Email Ruining Your Life?

Recently I started reading a book with a seemingly improbable title, “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris.

In the book, Ferris makes a number of assertions about how we all, whether employed or self-employed, can work less and enjoy life more through leverage.

He makes some excellent points and I’d encourage you to read the book.

A couple of pages in the book, however, caused me to re- think one specific activity I engage in on an almost hourly basis -email!

Though I’ve tried to “tame” the email tiger in the past, I always seem to slide back into the habit of whacking the “send / receive” button every 15 minutes and getting side tracked.

But, this book reminded me that I really need to start living (again) by the rules I suggest for everyone else.

Rule #1 – Only Check Email Twice Daily. It amazes me how many people tell me they go out of town or on vacation and only check email once daily and the world keeps on turning. If you can do it on vacation, why can’t you do it at home? Only check email two times daily. I’ve chosen 12:00 noon and 4:00 p.m. as my times and plan to cut that down to just once a day at 4:00 within the next 60 days.

Rule #2 – Separate Business and Personal. Operate with a different email box for both your business and personal email. This keeps personal crisis from spilling over into business and vice versa. That way if you must “cheat” a little because of a special project, you reduce your chances of getting derailed with an email that could have waited if you never saw it.

Rule #3 – Eliminate Customer Support Email. Never handle customer support via email, especially if you handle your own customer support. Always route every bit of customer support through a help desk system that tracks each “ticket” and communication with the customer. Also, this enables you to manage people’s expectations about when they’ll receive a reply since you can place hours of operation on a help desk.

Rule #4 – Not Every Email Warrants Response .Somewhere along the line, many of us adopted the belief that every email message needs a response from us. NO! If an email needs to get deleted with no response, do it and don’t feel guilty about it.

Rule #5 – An Empty In-box Equals Bliss. Never, ever, under any circumstances leave email messages in you in-box to handle them later. You won’t handle them later and it just leaves you with a general sense of uneasiness about leaving things incomplete. At the end of the day, take one of three actions on every message in your in-box: delete it; refer it to someone else; file it in an email folder.

Supposedly email would make all our lives better, but that little dream train ran off the tracks for me back in 1997. Don’t let email dictate everything from your work hours to your general mood, or even whether you have a “good” day or not. Take control of email and use it as a tool, not as an excuse to feel productive when all you really succeed at is wasting time.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jim Edwards