Is your email client open right now? Is Outlook open in another window? Gmail in a tab? Do you have two monitors and one is dedicated to email?
What about email notifications? Are they popping up on your screen? Did your phone just buzz?
In the Eisenhower Urgent/Important matrix email is a classic rarely urgent and rarely important item that most people are improperly classifying as urgent and important.
Take a look at your sent folder for the last 24 hours. Do some simple math:
- How many emails did you write in the last 24 hours?
- How many of them needed an answer right away?
I bet the answer is close to 0 — unless you are a customer service agent, most of us do not need to be answering email in real-time.
What is the harm? Not only is real-time email killing your productivity, it is killing you!
What is the answer? Batch processing your email and then closing your email client between processing times.
How do you batch process email? It is really quite simple: Pick 2 or three 3 specific times each day that you will view and answer email. Then, schedule those times into your calendar.
Keep your email closed except during those times. At those scheduled times, open your email and process your new messages. For each new message:
- If you can answer in 2 minutes or less, answer it.
- If you can delegate it, forward it and delete.
Otherwise, turn the email into a task on your separate To Do list (don’t use your email as your to-do list).
Then, close your email and keep it closed until the next scheduled time.
Now, focus on your real to do items, not your to-do list.