I don’t know about you but I’ve had days when I’ve spent more time checking, drafting and responding to emails than actual work. Yes, I know ‘doing emails’ is a big part of your work when you move into leadership but it’s isn’t the only thing. It is what Stephen Covey might say living in Quadrant 1 (urgent) and 3 (urgent but not important) at all times.
The thing I hate the most about these two quadrants is that it’s real and it keeps you away from all the important work that you could be doing. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that almost all of your important work (particularly the ones you think can wait for another day) should come first and be dealt with on a daily/consistent basis.
One of the routines that helps me do that is to not check emails. How do I do that? By simply closing it down for 90-minute blocks where I get my important work (think of strategy, business development, forecasting, planning and the like) done. Post that, I check emails for like 10 minutes within which I respond to the ones that need my immediate attention and put the others in a folder that I process when I get to the 90-minute block that’s dedicated just for emails. (I do this mostly after lunch because that’s when my energy starts to dripping down to a minimum. ‘Email work’ keeps me awake and alert.)
Please, note that I don’t do meetings before my ‘Email block.’ Yes, there are exceptions but the best way to make this routine work is to not make any or sparingly, if at all.
I know what you’re thinking — Sunil, this won’t work for me. I used to think that way myself but have realised that there are always workarounds. And nobody has ever died or gotten fired for not ‘checking emails’ because they were busy with important work that’s critical to the business.
I think having some structure instead of living inside your inbox or one of those quadrants (1 and 3) is worth a consideration. Not doing so is dangerous for you as a person and a professional as it’ll either burn you out or numb you down.