Check Your Email – at Scheduled Times Only

I would hazard a guess that one of the very first things you do when you sit down at the office is check emails. Of the 5, 10, 50, or 100 emails you are reviewing, are any of them urgent? I suspect you already know what absolutely must be done on any given day. And if something is absolutely urgent, there’s a good chance your client has called you about it already. My tip here is to set aside a time (or times) to check your emails – and that time doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. I’ve written about decision fatigue before, the cognitive bias that you have a limited tank of decisions per day. You may want to make sure your most important decisions are made at the beginning of the day while your tank is full. A better strategy is to get to work on the most important task of the day, or, as they say, “eat the frog”.

Suppose in the middle of the day you are working on a big memo, deep in thought. You notice a slight change in the background – you have a new email! You click over and start reading it. You have to make several decisions: is the email urgent, it is important, where to file it, what to do with it, when to do it. That’s a lot of decisions for each and every email. Studies have found that after an interruption it takes about 20 minutes to return to the same state of concentration and focus you had before.

With emails constantly coming in and interrupting your work day (let alone when you are not working!), turn off your notifications and stop the interruptions. Then take control of your emails by only looking at them at set times.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)

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