I came across a productivity tip the other day, which—on
the face of it—sounds entirely reasonable. The suggestion is that instead of
getting sidetracked all day long by the arrival of one e-mail message after
another, you configure your mail client so that it delivers mail on arestricted schedule. Like every hour or two.
I can certainly see where that would cut down on interruptions
and the temptation to slide into work avoidance mode. But after giving the idea
some serious consideration, for maybe a full three seconds, I rejected it. And
here's why: I would go INSANE thinking about all those potentially critical or at
least critically amusing e-mails washing up in some cyber holding tank waiting
for Outlook to open the sluiceway and allow them to pour into my mailbox. Not
that I ever get that kind of e-mail. That's not the point. I wouldn't know WHAT
was waiting for me, is the point. I have to check e-mail when I'm on vacation,
that's how et up with curiosity I am. So no delayed or consolidated e-mail
delivery for me. I'd be stabbing at the [F9] key for a manual send/receive allday long like a psychotic, pellet-craving lab rat.
Assuming you're in the same boat I am, and I know at least
some of you are (because you answer my e-mail when YOU'RE on vacation), what can
we do to keep from becoming derailed by our e-mail? I think maybe the only real
choice is to embrace derailment as a working style and learn to function
productively even as we go jouncing and skidding across the multitaskinglandscape.
To further choke the life out of the train metaphor (although our
journey began on a boat), it's like hopping from track to track to track: working on Project A while answering a couple
of smart-ass e-mails, responding to a serious managerial imperative, gathering
data and writing a report while working on Project B, investigating a customer
problem, reading a series of e-mails from the person sitting four feet behindyou. Hop hop hop.
Not that it hurts to fine-tune your e-mail handling skills.
(Here it is, finally: my raison d'blog.) As long as you're
going to be wallowing in e-mail day in and day out, you might as well shoot for
some degree of efficiency and organization. I found just the system, too. Itcalls for you to:
- Set Up a Simple and Effective E-mail Reference System
- Schedule Uninterrupted Time to Process and Organize E-Mail
- Process One Item At a Time, Starting at the Top
- Use the "Four D's for Decision Making" Model
(That last one is my favorite part. The four Ds are Delete it; Do it; Delegate it; Defer it. There are some excellent options there!)
This system is described in "4 Ways
to Take Control of Your E-mail Inbox."
to Take Control of Your E-mail Inbox."It's one of those productivity
articles describing practices that sound great and would probably work if it
weren't for the fact that you have to actually adopt them. The advice ispractical and specific, though, and I might give it a try.
If you have some other suggestions, please pass them along.
Or send me an e-mail. Odds are, I'll have it read before it comes to a completestop in my inbox.
Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.