If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to read part one of this ongoing email rules/rant. It focused on how email is often abused and can be a dangerous tool to anyone using it. The focus of this article is that there really is no such thing as an urgent email in business. Email is NOT a priority for any executive or manager and really not that important for any knowledge worker either. I’ve never seen email as a category on a performance review and I’ve never read in a job description that it is expected to respond to emails immediately. Ultimately, email is distracting and takes precious attention away from what your prime deliverables really are. Any worker concerned with how your time is spend (and that should be everyone) should focus on deliverables and results that they are actually rated on. Email comes second to that. So, to follow the usual format, I have some recommendations to follow for using (and not using) email effectively regarding its priority in the workplace. These comments and the target of this series of articles is email, but really any of the messaging tools people use for text, notifiers, instant messages, social networking and other related and so called ‘communication’ websites are all in the same boat here, a big distraction from working on your main deliverables. So, here are some ways to better manage email:

  • Turn off all alarm and popup notifiers when you get new mail
  • Only check email 2-3 times a day and do it consistently at the same times
  • Tell your colleagues and directs your new email habit
  • Turn off automatic email checking so if you are writing outgoing emails, you cannot be distracted by new inbox items when its not ‘email time’
  • Process all your mail in the scheduled time, don’t leave it to come back later, where you re-read and re-think the same thing over and over (see David Allen’s GTD process)
  • Do not get or forward emails to your phone. This will force you to check way to often, which breaks the whole email schedule
  • You don’t need to read everything in every email!
  • Limit your email subscriptions and remove ones of no value (use news readers and feed readers instead, they have less distracting and easier to archive and search)
  • Don’t use or encourage the use of email for anything really important
  • Do use email for updates, questions, status info, comments and other details of low priority that don’t require face to face communication


Prev: Break the habit of score keeping in your relationships
Next: The courage of Leadership