In the corporate world people often complain about too many emails. It is a modern day challenge for sure, however over the years I have noticed a few underlying causes and possible solutions for this common symptom.
Introverts feel more pain
Emails and meetings (add social media to the list) are another form of people interaction (like big gatherings) that exhausts the introverts more. As an introvert you have developed strategies to survive in other social situations, why not get creative for this one!
It’s a self-management challenge
There are quite a few ways emails can be organized, filtered, searched and marked for follow-ups. How open are you to try those? If you are not particularly interested to find solutions and are mostly sharing your frustration, dig little deeper. How organized you are in other areas of your life (ask your spouse or a trusted friend if you need a clue)? My feeling is that you will find a pattern and then should approach this more holistically.
It’s a habit issue
If your daily routine involves going through your emails first thing in the morning, it’s almost noon before you do anything for your own deliverables. A big chunk of your most productive work time is spent on emails. According to David Rock, you should do the brain intensive work in the morning as that’s when the brain is well rested and is ready to do most productive work.
Another fact is that our brain wants to avoid the energy consuming intensive thinking. That’s why we easily get allured to do the easy tasks (checking emails) first. I am not saying you shouldn’t spend time replying to other people’s questions, help them and be a good citizen – do all of those but do it consciously.
But what is underneath?
Why do you feel compelled to spend so much time on emails? Why is it so easy for you to get distracted? You may say that it’s the brain’s fault:). Chances are you don’t have any strong plan for yourself. When you are heading for work, do you plan for the day? How are you treating your priorities? How much passionate are you about the real job?
My client Tom was a busy professional and a large chunk of his time/energy was taken by emails. He used to get disappointed that his hard work was not getting the recognition. When I challenged him about the real impact of his email activity, he asked some of the people in his team. The data helped him to use his time more consciously- “Always on” no longer seemed so cool! When he focused on what he really wanted to accomplish at work, it was much natural for him to discipline his email activities.
Emails are just another form of communication. Pick a style that aligns with your own values and communicate that with your team. You are reading this shows you want to do something about this challenge. That is a very powerful place to begin! Please feel free to share your challenges, ideas and triumphs.