If I keep checking my emails, I can keep up with them.
If I don’t check my emails, I might miss something urgent.
I have told myself both of these statements more time than I can count. And either way, I don’t succeed with my emails.
I have made strides with my inbox, but the other month something Michael Smart said in an online workshop hit me.
“Stick to a schedule when checking and responding to email,” he said.
Now he’s not the first person I’ve heard say that. But for some reason when he said it, this time it resonated.
It may also be because he helped me to realize that emails are not my priority. They often are a means to reach my priorities – whether that is pitching a story and having it placed in a news outlet or tracking down information to write a blog post.
I’d been thinking about my priorities and how I often find myself busy, but not productive. Reading Greg McKeown’s book, “Essentialism,” is helping me to focus on getting the right things done.
As a result, I’ve slowly been weaning myself from checking emails constantly. I also no longer reply to an email the second I see it so that the sender won’t always expect me to be so speedy with my replies. And I try to never respond to emails on the weekend unless it is a crisis.
There are some exceptions for me with respect to checking my inbox. If I have just sent a media release or if I am handling a crisis, then I am checking my emails constantly, you might even say continuously. It’s okay in those situations.
When I am out with friends, I may keep my work mobile handy in case it rings. Only a few colleagues have the number, so if it rings, I know it’s urgent. I don’t have to keep checking the screen and the emails.
Ultimately, managing my inbox is not about the emails. It is about managing my priorities, and I know I need to spend my time at work pitching the media and strategizing. At home, I need to spend my time writing my book or relaxing.
Finally, emails don’t own me.