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It’s Time to Really Think About Email

It’s Time to Really Think About Email
    Think about your relationship with your inbox.

    It’s gone on long enough.

    Email has managed to take hold of too many lives, distracting us from what we really should be doing by sucking us back into responding to messages coming at us on an ongoing basis.

    The technology of email is wonderful in that we can actually communicate with each other from opposite ends of the globe or from right next door with just a few keystrokes and a “whoosh” from our computer’s speakers, but it has come at a cost that is getting out of control.

    With new technology we often get so excited about what it can do that we forget about what it was intended to do. We start to allow the technology to direct us rather than the other way around. A ringing telephone gets answered because it’s simply ringing, a fax gets picked up because it’s just been freshly faxed. And so it goes with email. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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    It’s time to really think about email – from the inside out.

    Email is defined as follows:

    “…messages distributed by electronic means from one computer user to one or more recipients via a network.” – via Apple’s native dictionary application

    Let’s break that down in a bit. But what I found pretty disturbing from the get-go is the sample sentence offered with the definition:

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    “Reading e-mail has become the first task of the morning.”

    Ugh. Not exactly the most productive way to start the morning. But I digress.

    Email is an abbreviation of “electronic mail”, which brings us back to the term “mail”, which is:

    “…letters and packages conveyed by the postal system.” – via Apple’s native dictionary application

    All of this may seem rather obvious to many of you. But let me ask you: Have you ever stood by the front door waiting for the mail to arrive? You may have on occasion, waiting for a particular package or letter to arrive. But have you done so every day, checking every so often to see if the mail has arrived? Probably not.

    So why do so many of us do that when it comes to email?

    The instantaneous aspect of email has created a reaction in many of us that would be preposterous if we applied it to regular old “snail mail”. Trying to break away from reacting this way to email is difficult because it’s not just your own habits that need to be broken, but the habits of those who are sending you the messages. Trying to explain to them that you are going to be less reactionary when your inbox signals a new message has arrived is a challenge, and it will be a very tough pill for many to swallow.

    But it has to be done.

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    Rarely (if ever) did people let the postal service dictate how their days went. When the mail arrived, it sat in the mailbox until it was ready to be picked up. In some cases, it would be several days before you’d go to the post office to pick it up. Even if you had mail delivered to your door you wouldn’t always jump for it when the mailman arrived to deliver it. We need to start applying the same practice to our electronic mail. We need to be more proactive with it than reactive. We need to rule our email inbox rather than let it rule us.

    When your email program signals that a message has arrived, it isn’t a command to go and check it out. It’s an alarm. It’s a notification. You have a say as to when you’ll venture into your inbox. Once you start to take back control of email, you’ll find that going into your email program is less of a chore and more a matter of routine – a routine you’ve designed. Think about it: how many emails are sitting in your inbox right now? Why are they there? Is it because you’ve yet to deal with them and have no desire to? Is it because you are using your mailbox to manage what you have to do on a daily basis rather than using your mailbox as a means of gathering information to add to the place you should be putting them so that you can properly manage your tasks?

    Why does electronic mail seem more important than non-electronic mail?

    Sure, electronic mail has also replaced the phone in many cases. Yet there are times where we’ve “held our calls” when we’re doing something that requires total focus and no distractions or interruptions. Do we do that for email as well? We should.

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    Email Alternatives

    1. Instant messaging. Should be used when a response is needed immediately. Think of it as the phone for the 21st century.
    2. Telephone. Still works better than both email to convey the importance of matters at hand. Instant messaging is more efficient at allowing people to track conversations, but the phone is more…human.
    3. Social networks. Takes things outside of your regular email inbox and often works better for sharing items. As long as privacy isn’t the main concern, social network sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can keep your inbox clutter down.

    What’s in your inbox?

    It’s time to think about email as it is: a method of communication that is faster than most other types we have available to us in today’s society. It’s not something that should keep us from doing the important work; it’s what should allow us to have the information we need to do more of the important work. It needs to be used accordingly, both by those on the sending and receiving end.

    More by this author

    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on November 19, 2020

    The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

    The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

    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. That’s why the art of saying no can be a game changer for productivity.

    Requests for your time are coming in all the time—from family members, friends, children, coworkers, etc. To stay productive, minimize stress, and avoid wasting time, you have to learn the gentle art of saying no—an art that many people have problems with.

    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.

    However, it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to stop people pleasing and master 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.

    Be honest when you tell them that: “I just can’t right now. My plate is overloaded as it is.” They’ll sympathize as they likely have a lot going on as well, and they’ll respect your openness, honesty, and attention to self-care.

    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?

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    For example, if my wife asks me to pick up the kids from school a couple of extra days a week, I’ll likely try to make time for it as my family is my highest priority. However, if a coworker asks for help on some extra projects, I know that will mean less time with my wife and kids, so I will be more likely to say no. 

    However, for others, work is their priority, and helping on extra projects could mean the chance for a promotion or raise. It’s all about knowing your long-term goals and what you’ll need to say yes and no to in order to get there. 

    You can learn more about how to set your priorities here.

    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[1].

    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 when you learn to say no, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm and unapologetic about guarding your time.

    When you say no, realize that you have nothing to feel bad about. You have every right to ensure you have time for the things that are important to you. 

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    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. However, if you erect a wall or set boundaries, 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 start saying no, then we look like we can’t handle the work—at least, that’s the common reasoning[2].

    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, everyone, 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.”

    This, of course, takes a great deal of awareness that you’ll likely only have after having worked in one place or been friends with someone for a while. However, once you get the hang of it, it can be incredibly useful.

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    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, try saying no this way:

    “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. If you need to continue saying no, here are some other ways to do so[3]:

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    Saying no the healthy way

      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, as people can sense insincerity.

      The Bottom Line

      Saying no isn’t an easy thing to do, but once you master it, you’ll find that you’re less stressed and more focused on the things that really matter to you. There’s no need to feel guilty about organizing your personal life and mental health in a way that feels good to you.

      Remember that when you learn to say no, isn’t about being mean. It’s about taking care of your time, energy, and sanity. Once you learn how to say no in a good way, people will respect your willingness to practice self-care and prioritization. 

      More Tips for a Less Stressful Life

      Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

      Reference

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