Organizing Technology: How to never, ever check your email again

Organizing Technology: How to never ever check your email again Okay, so the title’s a smidge disingenuous.

What I’m suggesting is that you abandon the tactic of email ‘checking’ – scanning subject lines and sender names, reading what catches your eye, sending the odd reply, all in a haphazard fashion.

Why you should avoid ‘checking’ email

1. You double up effort and waste time

Checking involves scanning, selectively opening and half-reading emails. But it leaves most message-related tasks incomplete. You quickly forward a hilarious YouTube link but defer replying to your disgruntled client, actioning a request from your boss and RSVP-ing to your mother-in-law’s family dinner e-vite.

You invariably have to go back and re-orient, re-read and (sometimes) re-dread before you can act on your emails.

2. It puts you in a dabbling mode where anything difficult is postponed

People tend to ‘check’ emails when looking for a distraction (I sure do used to), so they’re not generally in a high-output frame of mind. It’s a way to be busy without being productive. That’s fine sometimes, but usually it just puts you in a  procrastinating place. And there are better ways to take a break – like stretching, doing eye exercises or communicating with a colleague in an ancient style known as ‘in person’.

3. You miss things

Easy to do when it’s unclear what’s been actioned and what hasn’t while playing Which Email Shall I Pretend Not to See.

So what do you do instead?

Processing email – the secret to single e-handling

Here’s how to ‘process’ rather than ‘check’ email:

  1. Turn off auto-receive. OFF!
  2. Depending on your job, required availability, etc, set a schedule for how often it’s reasonable to process email. It could be hourly, twice-daily, weekly – whatever works for you. Or forget the schedule, but download emails only when you’re ready to deal with them.
  3. On that schedule, or when ready to deal, download your emails and start with the first one. Now this is the key: Process* each one before moving to the next. No jumping ahead, no deferring, no half-doing whatever task is called for.
  4. Persevere – this will become a habit you treasure.

There’ll be times when checking is needed – if you’re waiting on an important email or need to know what’s ahead before going into a long meeting, for instance. But overall, swapping email checking for processing will boost your productivity and improve your personal organization.

Until you get a Crackberry.

*There are only 4 things you should do when processing email.

Question: Are you an email checker or processor? Please share your comment below.

Want more strategies for managing email overload?
Learn about Inbox Zen | 7 Simple Steps For Making Peace With Your Email.

Image by CarbonNYC

Michele | Get Organized Gal

Michele is into writing, books, simplicity, love, TV, productivity, and staying thin in a world of chocolate.

14 thoughts on “Organizing Technology: How to never, ever check your email again

  1. Pingback: Deleting and managing my emails | Jessica Letchford

  2. Susannah says:

    I am an e-mail processor. I cannot stand to have any unread emails in my inbox, OR junk email just sitting there. I like to keep my inbox down to 5 at most 🙂

  3. Pingback: Organizing Technology: The ONLY 4 Things You Should do with New Email : Get Organized Wizard

  4. Angie Haggstrom says:

    Great Post Michele!

    I didn’t know how much time email sucks away until after I started working online. I used to use my inbox as a ‘to-do’ list, but I found that was counter-productive.

    I find this technique helps a lot! (Great technique for Twitter too) I open my email only between projects and Twitter only on my breaks.

    I then with things that only take a few minutes right away and delete them. Anything that takes a bit goes into my schedule and anything I’m waiting on stays in the in-box for the next break.

  5. Angie Haggstrom says:

    Great Post Michele!

    I didn’t know how much time email sucks away until after I started working online. I used to use my inbox as a ‘to-do’ list, but I found that was counter-productive.

    I find this technique helps a lot! (Great technique for Twitter too) I open my email only between projects and Twitter only on my breaks.

    I then with things that only take a few minutes right away and delete them. Anything that takes a bit goes into my schedule and anything I’m waiting on stays in the in-box for the next break.

  6. Bridget Cavanaugh says:

    I’m faving this one as a possible New Year’s Resolution (can you say procrastinate?). The crack-b has exacerbated the checking vs. processing problem, as if it could get worse. The only thing I haven’t tried is the “persevere” which for me should really be “sever” as in amputate my email. Thanks.

  7. Bridget Cavanaugh says:

    I’m faving this one as a possible New Year’s Resolution (can you say procrastinate?). The crack-b has exacerbated the checking vs. processing problem, as if it could get worse. The only thing I haven’t tried is the “persevere” which for me should really be “sever” as in amputate my email. Thanks.

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