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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.

More by this author

Craig Childs

Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

We all know some overachievers: supermoms who manage to get online degrees between cleaning, cooking, and taking kids to practice; students who write 10-page papers when the directions call for 4; managers whose resumes look more like pages from the Guinness book of Records.

How do they do it all? How is it possible that one person can graduate at the top of their class, found an orphanage in India, run 30k marathons, write a best-selling book, travel all over the world and learn to speak Mandarin Chinese while having a full-time job?

What’s the secret of an overachiever? Here’re 11 things overachievers do differently that you can learn from.

1. They Know How to Manage Their Time

It’s pretty simple actually – you can never become an overachiever if you don’t know how to organize your time efficiently.

The great thing is that overachievers are ready to share their knowledge and time management talent with the rest of the world. Read The 4-Hour Workweek or The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

2. They Don’t Spend Hours Watching TV or Playing Computer Games

Mostly because they have better things to do, like exercising, reading, spending an evening with their family or volunteering to work in the local soup kitchen. Their philosophy is simple – the world is full of wonderful things to try, explore and experience. Watching TV is not one of them.

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3. They Are Obsessed With Perfection

Imagine Steve Jobs’ work approach and you’ll understand the level of perfection and painfully high standards that overachievers set for themselves and those around them. Often it pays off (especially if they focus on just one domain). But sometimes compulsive over-striving turns into a sure-fire road to disappointments and unfinished tasks.

Learn how to strike a balance: How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

4. They Know How To Inspire

Overachievers learn quickly that it is much easier to achieve goals through collaboration (and especially delegation). So they know how to inspire, encourage, persuade and motivate people around them. Even though they often drive their team crazy with their stubbornness and perfectionism, people quickly follow under the spell of their enthusiasm and greater vision.

Learn these 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively.

5. They Set Clear Goals

The term “overachiever” itself implies that they know how to achieve goals. That is kind of hard to do if your goals are vague, unclear and lack specific deadline, which is why overachievers educate themselves, read goal-setting books, and think about the best way to approach a new task.

Although, it’s worth mentioning that overachievers usually use their time management and goal-setting skills towards competitive, “I want to kick butt” type of goals rather than self-improvement, mastery goals.

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Take a look at these tips to help you set clearer goals: What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

6. They Are Organized

It’s hard to imagine a disorganized overachiever, isn’t it? Their great organizational and planning skills usually serve three main purposes: keeping track of time, keeping track of progress and keeping track of achievements.

This hasn’t been confirmed by scientific research yet, but overachievers might actually get a “runner’s high” from crossing tasks off their to-do lists, and making new to-do lists.

Here’s How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

7. They Try to Avoid Failure at All Costs

Some psychologists believe that overachievers place their self-worth on their competence, driven by an underlying fear of failure. Rather than setting and striving for goals based on a pure desire to achieve, their core motivation becomes avoiding failure. This may explain the fact that overachiever beat themselves up for even little setbacks and seemingly-insignificant mistakes.

But be aware that having a strong fear of failure can wrek havoc your productivity. So the best thing to do? Learn to conquer the fear: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It)

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8. They Love Awards

Who doesn’t love them, right? True enough, but unlike most people who like to feel acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, overachievers are bent on collecting ‘awards’, be it university degrees, spelling bee prizes or unusual destinations.

While loving awares isn’t bad, it’s even better if you’re driven by internal motivation instead of external ones which could be quite uncontrolable or unstable: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It).

9. They Don’t Understand the Concept of Work Hours

Don’t get surprised if you receive a work-related email anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. It’s something overachievers usually do and you weren’t the only one. At least 20 more emails have been sent during these hours to other people. The concepts of over-achieving and working overtime usually go hand in hand.

The downside of this is an imbalnced life, which may need to problems in other aspects of life including health and relationships. A better way is to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance.

10. They Rest

Overachievers might often be labeled as “workaholics”, because they often ignore bodily signs of hunger, fatigue and even a full bladder, hoping to finish just one last little part. This doesn’t mean that overachievers don’t know how to disconnect and relax.

True that they tend to work in the highest gear, but they also have enough sense to give themselves time to rest and recharge. Of course, they do it in their own overachieving way, preferring climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking through the Amazon jungle to lazing on the beach.

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11. Overachievers Continuously Educate Themselves

A great quality that most overachievers have is the hunger for knowledge. They surround themselves with bright people. They know how to listen, and most importantly, they get tons of mentoring.

Despite the fact that overachievers want to excel at everything they set their minds on, they are humble enough to admit that to get on top of their game, they need help. And they are willing to pay someone to push, coach and guide them.

You too can learn How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

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Featured photo credit: Nghia Le via unsplash.com

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