Inevitably when helping people get on top of their email, the question about how often should someone be processing their email comes up.
You’ll notice the word ‘processing’ rather than ‘checking’. It’s a huge step in getting on top of email that we get out of the habit of “I’m just going to check my email.” No! We want to process email and then we want to get into another zone of actioning it. If we’re ‘checking email’ we’re wasting time because checking doesn’t amount to moving something along or getting something done.
Getting out of the habit
One thing you can do to help yourself get out of the habit of checking email is to turn off your email alerts. You don’t need to get a sound alerting you to a new email (especially if you are getting 100 plus emails a day) throughout the day. Alerts are distractions. We want to control when we process email, not the other way around. Turn them off!
So when do we process email? It very much depends on your work and needs. But everyone can set up a proactive routine around how often they do this. There are some schools of thought that say that twice a day is the way to go. And for some people, it probably works but for others, it’s too limiting. Depending on your role and how email-heavy your work is maybe you need to check on the top of every hour, it can take some experimenting to find what works for you.
A process that works
What I’ve found works for many clients is to process and action emails thoroughly twice a day. Once in the morning and then again in the afternoon for say thirty or 45 minutes each time. And then outside of those two times, when you have five minutes or so (or a short break before a meeting) process your email in a quick five-minute burst.
But it’s those two processing and actioning times where a lot of the heavy lifting is going on. You’re making decisions, you’re deleting emails, turning emails into tasks, and scheduling time in your calendar for chunkier tasks.
From experience, that’s a reasonable rhythm to have with email and most clients find that they can keep on top of email and keep progressing with their work. Ultimately the goal is to feel more in control of the information coming at us. To not feel like we are living in our Inbox and not achieving anything of value to us.