Stop the email time thief: Don't let new messages distract you

Multitasking? It's a major drain on productivity...

...either incorrect or admits liability to an error. While the error cannot be negated, a more considered response might limit the ultimate damage.

So, reacting immediately to email is not only one of the major time thieves and drains on our productivity but can be an unnecessary cost to the business.

Here are five ways to help people manage their time more effectively and be more productive - and create even better customer service.

  1. Agree on guidelines as to what is an acceptable response time for internal and external emails, and hence how often email should be checked. For example, from every 30 minutes to five times a day.
  2. Create a culture in which people feel it's okay not to be driven by email but rather the task at hand.
  3. Show people how to turn off all those new email alerts.
  4. Educate by example. If a request is urgent, show how an alternative to email can save time - for example, either walk and talk or phone.
  5. Provide ways to help manage expectations of a response, such as out-of-office messages when a block of time is needed to concentrate, or auto responses.

Those who have changed their email behaviour - from always available and ready to respond immediately to a more measured approach - say how much time they have saved in the long run. Some even find the volume of emails they need to handle has decreased.

Dr Monica Seeley is an international expert on email management. Her third book, Brilliant Email, is published by Pearson. You can follow her daily tips and hints on Twitter. From 24 to 28 January, she is launching the UK's first Clean Inbox Week.