E-mail - is it a blessing or a curse?

As with so many things, it depends on what you make it. Without effective time management, dealing with your inbox can take on a life of its own. We don't have the choice to disconnect in today's business world, but we can choose to organize how we spend our time.

Here are some ideas:

How to deal with e-mails

You need to keep on top of your email, otherwise it will bury you. However, if you check it too often, you will waste far too much time and interrupt opportunities to get into the flow of your work and maximize your productivity.

Think about your current email management system. How efficient are you?

The 4 Ds!

When managing email the “4 D” system works very well. For each email that comes in you have four options:

  • Do it – For simple requests and responses, just do it! It’s easier to hit reply and quickly type a response than it is to set it aside for prioritization. “Do it” also applies to items that you don’t need to act on but want to file for reference.
  • Delete it – After you’ve skimmed an email and decided it’s not actionable and you don’t need to keep it, delete it. For some people this is the hardest action of all. They think, “What if I just might need it in the future?” If you struggle with this, set up a folder in your inbox for “To Delete” items. This way they are out of your inbox and you can deal with your delete anxiety later.
  • Delegate it – Is the information something that needs to be passed along for someone else to act on? Is it something you don’t need to deal with personally? Try to delegate as much as possible!
  • Decide its priority – When you have whittled your way through the email what is left are the things that you need to act on. Before diving in and tackling them you need to prioritize them. Just because you read it first or it came from your boss does not mean it is most important.

4 Signs you need a Tech Break

  1. You’re a master multitasker. You can e-mail a client, schedule a car repair from your landline, and text your teenager simultaneously. Except, well, you really can’t. “Multitasking is a myth,” says research psychologist Larry Rosen, author of iDisorder. Studies show that people complete tasks far more quickly when they tackle them one at a time. For the sake of efficiency, stay focused – and turn off competing ringers and alerts.
  2. Your patience perpetually runs low. You can book an international flight in 20 seconds, so why is that person taking forever to cross the street? “The speed of technology has made us more demanding off-screen, “ Rosen says. Be grateful that real life moves at a slower pace. In most cases, an extra minute or two won’t make or break you.
  3. You feel naked without your phone. On the surface, a smart phone seems like the perfect boredom buster: playing with tech toys spurs the output of dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical. Over time, though, this can create a sense of dependency on your device, Rosen warns. Give your brain a breather and allow yourself to enjoy your idle moments.
  4. You check your in-box and burn the chicken. How did that happen? You sat down to read an e-mail from your daughter’ ballet teacher. Then you looked up leotards, which led you to YouTube videos of dance recitals, which brought you to bloopers from Dancing with the Stars, which – whoops, so much for dinner. Next time, avoid the rabbit hole by setting a timer for your Web session. (And just to safe, set one for the chicken, too.)