As small firm architects, we are all working so hard to get everything done. Between the many hours we dedicate to building our firms and the time we spend building strong relationships at home, there are not many minutes left to do anything else.
Each new week offers us another 168 hours, no more and no less. Before we ever get started, half of those precious hours are reserved for sleep, eating and hygiene. What we choose to do with the remaining 84 hours will determine whether we succeed at reaching our goals, or fail.
I’ve been working hard on a new course for the EntreArchitect community. I will soon be releasing a comprehensive digital training package to help small firms be more productive and get more done. My goal is to help us focus on the things that matter most in our lives. If you are interested in being notified when the new course is ready, please click over and add your name to the mailing list. You will be among the first to know when it goes live.
As I looked into my own daily patterns and learned where my 12 hours are spent each day, I was shocked to learn how email had taken over my life. I was spending more than 2 hours per day (sometimes more), sorting, managing and responding to email messages. That’s more than 16% of my available time. That’s time away from building my business. That’s time taking me away from my kids.
I needed to make some changes.
Email is a very powerful tool and if used wisely, it can actually help us be more productive. We need to be intentional with our time. We need to stop letting email control us. We need to take control of this amazing technology (and if you think about what email actually does, it is a truly amazing technology.)
12 Steps to Take Control of Your Email
1. Turn off notifications
The blinking lights, bells and friendly reminders are nothing but a distraction. The first step in regaining control is to turn off all notifications on your phone and desktop.
2. Install SPAM filters
More than 90% of my email is unwanted junk and solicitations. Install and use the power of the SPAM filter to reduce the number of messages you need to process.
3. Unsubscribe from unread subscriptions
Much of the time that we spend on email is spent sorting through the mess of messages to find the few that matter. Every new message that arrives is another message that you need to process. Unsubscribe from every email list that you no longer read. (Even mine… if you don’t read it.)
4. Schedule time for dedicated email review
Here’s the trick to productive email management. Schedule specific times per day to review your email. Without the minute by minute notifications, you will be less tempted to check your email throughout the day. It will take some effort to establish new routines and habits, but when you reach your goals with all that extra time earned from the discipline, it will be well worth the pain.
5. “Do it. Delegate it. Defer it. Delete it.”
In his best selling book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen provides 4 rules for processing any task list including email. If the email will take less than 2 minutes to manage… Do it. If the email can be forwarded and handed by another member of your team… Delegate it. If the email requires your attention and will take more than 2 minutes to address, then add it to your task manager… Defer it, and if it is useless junk… Delete it. By following these simple rules, you will be able to quickly process your email and achieve “inbox zero” each day.
6. Keep email responses short
Email is intended to be for simple communications. Keep your messages short and to the point. Don’t waist precious hours composing long email messages that no one will read.
7. Use the telephone for dialogue
Try to avoid the dreaded email dialogue. If you find yourself in a volley of back and forth messages, pick up the telephone and have a conversation. The issue will be resolved quicker and you can get back to work on the things that matter most.
8. Prepare formal letters for important documentation
Don’t use email for important documentation. Formal reports and letters should be formal.
9. Coordinate your teams using apps
Don’t use email for project management or for coordinating your team. Apps such as Asana, Trello and Slack are much more efficient than email and will allow you to easily search the history of your communication. Using email to manage your projects only adds more messages that need to be processed.
10. Use “reminder” apps
In the past, I used email as a reminder tool. Each time I wanted to add something to my to-do list, I would send myself an email and add the task to my list when I returned to the studio. Today I use Nozbe. If I have a task or need a reminder, I just add it to my Nozbe and it’s there, ready for me whenever and wherever I need it.
11. Delegate your email management
Imagine opening your email app and finding only the 5 message that require your attention. No junk. No SPAM. No time wasters. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Assign your email management to an assistant and never deal with it again. Imagine what you could do with the time saved. You could probably work on something will make you more money and easily pay for the expense of the assistant.
12. Don’t respond after hours or on weekends
This is my most important rule. Your evenings and weekends are yours. Don’t let your clients or consultants steal that precious time from you, your family and friends. Turn off your email on Friday evening and don’t turn it back on until Monday morning. Set expectations with your team and clients and you will live happily ever after.
Question: What are your tips for taking control of your email?
Photo Credit: Pixabay / nvtrlab