The Simple Habit of Scheduling Email Processing Times

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The following is a sample from my book Daily Inbox Zero: 9 Proven Steps to Eliminate Email Overload. Checking your email can be a productivity trap. If you want to figure out an effective email checking time for yourself, read on and learn how. Be sure to check the book for more email tips.

Habits require specificity.

You can't say, “I will check my email in the morning” and expect to follow through every single day.

Habits are built by consistently doing the same thing at the same time. The best way to empty an inbox every day is to schedule time dedicated to this task.

How often and when you do this is up to you, but I urge you to be extremely specific to make it work.

The hardest part of mastering this habit is pulling the plug on the one thing that often feeds an inbox addiction: email notifications.

You know what I’m talking about. These are those dinging sounds you hear and pop-ups you see whenever a new message lands in your inbox. Pavlov would be proud because these stimuli (sounds) generally elicit a response (checking your email).

The only way to truly break this vicious cycle is to remove free will from the equation by turning off all email notifications. Do this one step and you’ll get back a huge amount of time that can be spent on important projects.

To illustrate this point, here are a few good reasons to schedule time to process your inbox:

  1. Batching similar tasks together makes them easier to process.
  2. Scheduling processing time makes it easier to organize your day.
  3. People will often answer their own questions because they won’t get an immediate response, saving you time and effort.
  4. If you have only a short amount of time to process your email, you'll have a ticking clock that reminds you to be efficient.
  5. You'll develop an intuitive understanding of how to respond to specific types of messages.

Don't Let Email Manage Your Time

Managing email is like doing any other task. During the first few minutes, you’ll feel sluggish and out of sync, but eventually you’ll get into a rhythm where you respond to each message in a rapid-fire manner. By processing your email only a few times a day, you’ll do it efficiently and avoid getting distracted by other tasks.

To get started on decluttering your inbox and freeing yourself from email overwhlem, check out my book Daily Inbox Zero: 9 Proven Steps to Eliminate Email Overload.