Is email getting in the way of your life?

Ding! Another one. The sound of new email arriving in your inbox can be one of the most crippling workplace distractions. Email has its place and is an incredibly useful way of communicating, but it shouldn’t rule us.

There are tips abound for avoiding career burnout, but in this post, I’ve got 10 tips which will stop email ruling your life. None of them will cost you a penny and you can implement them immediately.

1. Turn it off

No, really – close your email client. A common misconception about email is that it can be used as a way to attract someone’s attention. Even with the ‘high priority’ option ticked, email should never be used for emergencies. Think of it like traditional post in that respect.

2. Set specific times to check email

Right, now you’ve closed your email client I bet you’re feeling a little nervy. What could you be missing? Who’s trying to get hold of you? Don’t fret. Instead, set specific times of the day to check and respond to your email. Go for three or four, maximum. It works.

3. Unsubscribe

If you’re running your own business, you’ll know about the perils of becoming an email spammer, but there are still a colossal number of organisations who are intent on filling your inbox with junk.

You’ve probably got into the habit of simply deleting the spam messages every day, but that’s time wasted. Get it back by clicking ‘unsubscribe’ rather than deleting.

4. Remove email from certain devices

You’ve got a laptop, smartphone and tablet and I bet all of them have access to your email account. Try this: remove it from the one you use mainly for content consumption. We’re all in danger of becoming obsessed with technology, and that obsession often brings with it the ability to take email everywhere you go. Rid yourself of it on at least one device.

5. Apply the 2 minute rule

Email stress usually comes as a result of people not knowing how long a recipient will take to respond. I’m a firm believer that most emails should be answerable in two minutes. Combine that theory with your pre-set email sessions and you’ll be able to get through 10 emails in 20 minutes.

6. Use rules

Email inboxes hold all manner of messages. When those messages are all bunched together, they can look intimidating, but by breaking them down into separate folders, you’ll start to see the wood for the trees.

Most email clients allow you to set up ‘rules’ which will automatically divert emails to folders, for example, based on their subject line, content or sender. Learn how to use them.

7. Turn off notifications

When you set up a new laptop or smartphone, notifications for emails are usually turned on by default. Turn notifications off, and do it now!

8. Switch from ‘push’ to ‘manual’

Another trick of email clients is for them to automatically place new email in your inbox whenever it is delivered. Turning that feature off might sound a little odd, but by configuring your email client in a way which forces you to manually check for new email, you’ll become the master of it as opposed to an inbox slave.

9. Kill conversations dead

This is a neat trick. If you’re suggesting a meeting location, or have sent a proposal, end it with “unless I hear from you, I will assume you’re ok with my suggestion”. In one fell swoop, you’ll have killed the requirement for a reply if everything is fine. And that is one needless email effortlessly avoided.

10. Practice Inbox Zero

If you follow all of the rules above, you should find an empty inbox quickly becomes a reality. Inbox Zero is the process of keeping it that way and is possibly the best way to prevent email slowing you down.

Be the boss of email – don’t let it rule your life.

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