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How Not To Check Email At Work

How Not To Check Email At Work
How Not To Check Email At Work

More today than ever, email is a part of the workplace. In offices, even home offices, email is an indispensable tool that allows for quick, casual and formal conversation.

Using email effectively is the key to productivity. More so, using it as little as possible at appropriate times is key. Here’s how you shouldn’t check your email while working.

The Do Nots:

1. Check mail first thing in the morning

Get started on work first, then check mail at a specific time afterwards. When you begin with email, it muddles your day. You’ve suddenly got 10 things to think about without having started any work for the day.

Don’t touch your email until after an hour. Any important messages, memos, meetings etc, can be passed to you by co-workers. You’ll be much more productive getting an early start on your work before any distractions.

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Never Check Your Email First Or Last – [LifeDev]

2. Reply immediately

Organize what emails need action and set a time in day to reply to them all. Rarely do emails need actioning immediately. Save/organize/star the emails you want to reply to and set a time to handle them later.

Other than preventing you from spending half and hour checking and replying and thinking about replying to emails, this will also allow you some time to casually think about your responses. Maybe you decide you don’t even need to reply to some.

Apply the GTD 2-minute rule, but halve it. If you can write a reply to an email in 1 minute or less, then reply right away. Otherwise, put it away to reply later.

Remember the 4 D’s when deciding what to do with each email.

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  • 1. Delete it – Delete
  • 2. Do it – reply if under 1 minute
  • 3. Delegate it – forward if actionable for someone else
  • 4. Defer it – put away [folder/star etc] for later

3. Check personal emails/ blog stats etc

Have a work email or filter personal/work contacts so you’re only receiving work-related emails while at work.

You don’t need to handle personal emails at work. If you like to relax and check those on your break, do so, but don’t let it affect your workflow. If you see an email from a friend amongst work emails, it’ll be hard to resist reading. Keep them separate and organize your time.

If you do use your work email for personal emails also, like in this NYTimes report, I would suggest filtering everything you can so work stays work and play stays at home.

Use the Greasemonkey Filter Assistant script to easily create filters for email contacts.

4. Get notified

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If you use Outlook or an email client that allows desktop/browser notifications, turn them off. Nothing disrupts your workflow like email notifications popping up.

Set times to check; maybe twice a day. Intersperse these with your reply times. Email isn’t a live conversation. No-one expects you to reply straight after they send one through, people will begin to expect your emails at your designated reply-only times.

This takes discipline, but does wonders to keep you on track.

If you use something like Gmail Notifier, you can disable automatic email checks and only check emails manually.

5. Spend a lot of time on replying

Emails aren’t novels. They shouldn’t even be long conversations. Keep your replies as succinct as possible. Give straight answers and stay on point.

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If you receive long emails, do your best to speed read so you’re not spending more than a few minutes on each email. When replying to a long email, keep it ultra-short. Use dot points and make it easy for the recipient to reply with short answers.

Try the Time Tracker Firefox extension to track time spent on emails. It comes with stats and an alarm.

The Do:

Set up a system that works for you.

If you require constant updates of emails, then keep notifications up. Maybe find a better way to get those updates, like through your mobile. If your workplace has bad email practices, or you see a lot of time wasted, talk to someone about it.

If you’re a GMail user, get into filters and learn how to use them well.

Set a schedule to include email checking and replying. Email should make work faster and more productive.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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