Alternative title, “Changing My E-mail Habits.”
I’ve recently read, “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. There are a lot of gems in this book, but one I plan to implement immediately, is changing my e-mail habits. Even without a smart phone, it is so easy to be a compulsive e-mail checker. After reading his book, I now see how disruptive it can be to having productive work time.
Luckily, I did find out how much of a time/attention suck it could be on the home front, prior to having kids. I did own a BlackBerry once upon a time. Besides the redundant monthly internet cost, I found myself obsessively checking to see if the red light were flashing, alerting me to new mail. It got to the point of being counterproductive, so I “quit.” It likely also came at a time of budget review, so there were multiple compelling reasons to revert back to a basic cell phone. One that now has a text keypad at least!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against smart phones. This post could also come back to bite me if I ever break down and get one. I’m sure I’m seen as pretty old school for my generation, but so far I’ve been able to hold out against getting one again. I do see the appeal of having your phone, a camera, GPS, and minicomputer all in one. Target’s cartwheel app makes getting one even more tempting! I just don’t want the World Wide Web to be too accessible to me. I feel by not giving myself access, it forces me to be present with my spouse and children, in the car, nature, or anywhere else for that matter.
Back to e-mailing habits. I operate off of Microsoft Outlook for my day job and have an e-mail alert that pops up any time a new one is received. Just like the red light, I find myself checking compulsively for the little envelope on my toolbar’s icon all day. It’s very distracting.
In his book, Tim recommends checking e-mail daily at 12 & 4pm (EST), but no more. Besides the fact that I’m in the central time zone, my schedule likely differs from his, so I’ve selected 10am and 3pm for my two e-mail checking windows. He’s very adamant that you don’t check it first thing in the morning; it’s too easy to get distracted and lose focus on the tasks at hand.
Once you start work for the day, it’s best to choose a few key tasks that you need to get completed for the day. He suggests not checking e-mail or eating lunch until they are done. This will shape work habits that should increase your productivity in no time. There’s nothing like a growling stomach to make you work faster!
I’ve overcome this at home for the most part, but am hopeful that implementing this at work will improve my ability to get things done. By setting these specific boundaries, I’ll force myself to batch tasks and operate in a different manner. It should be easier to stay focused and not get lost in the internet black hole that one seemingly innocent e-mail can cause. In a few weeks, I plan on circling back to update you on my progress. In the meantime, tell me:
Do you currently batch e-mail? What’s one reason you swear by your smart phone?
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