What does checking your email actually mean? Do you have a look how many emails have come in since you last “checked”? Do you want to know whether a particular email has arrived, ignoring the rest and letting them pile up? How often do you check? And what do you actually do?
Checking emails means different things to different people, but in most cases it does not mean making a decision on every email when you first lay eyes on it. The “touch it once” philosophy we are encouraged to use when dealing with paper also applies to email – our virtual post.
Ideally you access your email 2 – 3 times per day and process it. This means that you make a quick decision on everything that comes in, dividing the “post” into 4 categories: delete, delegate, do and defer.
Delete: pretty obvious, be generous with the delete button.
Delegate: if you are not the best person to deal with the email, forward with a short note to a more suitable person. Move the email into a “to follow up” folder, so that you remember to check whether the matter has been dealt with.
Do: if the email requires a very quick action (less than 2 minutes) do it straight away. If you have to deal with lots of emails (100 or more per day) you might want to take that down to 30 seconds.
Defer: if the email requires an action that takes more than 2 minutes (30 seconds) move the email to an action folder such as “read”, “reply”, “call”, etc. Deal with the emails in bulk when you deal with the relevant actions.
Processing your emails this way a couple of times per day will ensure that you are always up to date, but you decide when actions are completed and you are not “run” by your email.