Time management experts estimate that over 50% of businesspeople check their email compulsively. More and more, people walk around (or try and drive) while checking their Blackberries or iPhones. As more and more email is exchanged in the business world, the urge to keep up with the latest news is insistent. So how often do you check your email? Instantly as it arrives, twice a day (once in the morning, once in the afternoon), or whenever everything else gets done?
If you picked any of those options, you're in good company. Here are a few tips to deal with the overflow of email:
1. Delegate or send along any email you don't need to deal with personally. This is something that managers and CEOs must learn. You should not be answering every email that comes into the sales or customer service department. There are other people that can do it.
2. Create different email accounts. If you receive gobs of email from clients, vendors, colleagues, and so on, parse them out and redirect the email flow into multiple accounts. That way, when you check a particular email account, you can expect all the emails to be from clients, not a conglomeration of emails from colleagues, clients, and people trying to sell you something.
3. The Four-Hour Workweek guru, Tim Ferriss, makes it a habit to only check email once a day. He set up an auto-response message, which states, "I check e-mail once per day, often in the evening. If you need a response before tomorrow, please call me on my cell."
4. Give email its due in the evening when the day's work is done and you can focus. Lots of CEOs run around all day putting out little fires and then get back to work in their home offices after 9 P.M. to see the day's messages. Often the inbox is really full. However, an A.M. work shift may be just the thing (for prime working tips specific to night owls, see The A.M. CEO).
5. Time management guru Julie Morgenstern has a book, Never Check Email In the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Work Life Work. Her advice is right in the title. She points out that email takes over the best part of the day (the morning) when most managers and CEOs are at their best. She recommends postponing email until later.
6. Prioritize your email. If you can send off quick replies one right after the other and save the longer, thoughtful replies for later, you might find yourself getting through your inbox faster.