by Fran Connors
(Fort Worth, Texas, USA)
We are ALL guilty of checking our email boxes every few minutes throughout the day, whether we are at home or work. We know we don’t need to yet we still feel the urge to stop what we are doing and open that box. We think it will just take a second or two, but it never does because we get distracted by what we find.
Not so long ago, we all used to manage quite well without emails, so we can rest assured that the world will not come to an end if we spend less time checking them.
Time wasted checking emails unnecessarily is time spent away from something more constructive.
A lot of the emails that people receive are ‘junk’ mails; these can be from companies advertising their wares – perhaps you have ordered something online, and now find that you are on a mailing list that seems to issue emails a dozen at a time. More sinister emails abound these days, too, namely those from people hoping you will fall for the latest scam. Recent scams have ranged from people telling you that you have won or inherited a huge amount of money, to those informing you that your bank account needs “verifying”.
The latter are ‘phishing’ emails, and many innocent people have been caught out by them. They purport to be from your bank and, indeed, they may look genuine, but they ask for your personal details, including PIN numbers and account details, and the next thing you know, money has been taken from your account. The best policy is to ignore them completely but, if you are worried, a quick phone call to your bank will confirm that they would not contact you in this way.
The type of junk mail that proliferates if you order something online can usually be dealt with by unsubscribing, and details of how to do that are usually incorporated into the email. If you spend a little time each week unsubscribing from all the companies that you have no interest in, it will cut down on the amount of emails you have to plough through each time you check your in-box.
If time is at a premium, schedule certain times of the day for checking your emails. For example, as soon as you arrive at your work-station, check your emails and deal only with those that just can’t wait. Decide on the next ‘window’ of time during your working day, and try not to check your in-box until that time. With a strong will and good time management, you will soon realise that most emails can wait. Schedule your checking times to once an hour, if you feel insecure leaving it for longer.
Utilising wisely the hour between each check will ensure that you use your time constructively – a lot can be achieved in an uninterrupted hour. Research has shown that many working hours are lost due to email-checking; this is not good for productivity or the overall economy, and there is nothing more frustrating that leaving work at the end of the day feeling that you haven’t achieved all you set out to do.
Prioritise your emails as you read them. Deal with those that demand instant attention, print off those that have to be dealt with in due course, adding post-it notes to them if necessary, turn of the sound so that you don’t tear’ each email arrive in your in-box, and concentrate on what you need to do.
Some people can resist the urge to keep opening their in-boxes They will check first thing in the morning and just before they switch their computers off. If you have a busy life online, this may not be often enough, but you can still work out a schedule that helps you to balance your time constructively.
Emails seductively eat into your time without you being fully aware of it — set up a timetable for checking them, making them fit into your schedule rather than the other way around, and you will soon find that the time you spend not checking them will be the most rewarding time of all.