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How to increase efficiency and stop the email obsession

Take control of your morning again

“IDEATION: No Emails” —

Virtual working has become the new norm and with it comes a plethora of texts, emails and zoom calls.

Even when I was working for corporations, I found virtual working liberating — because I could work without interruption and take breaks when I needed them, i.e. grab my third coffee of the morning! — but not everyone is finding the transition a smooth one.

When left to our own devices we can get distracted very easily, or worse think that we are accomplishing something when we really aren’t. Becoming an entrepreneur opened my eyes to that false sense of accomplishment we achieve in the corporate life, and the understanding of the tasks that don’t drive our work forward in the least!

. . .

The email illusion

Isn’t there a satisfaction we feel every morning when we clear part of our inbox? 120 emails down to 60? “Phew that was a lot of work and now I deserve a break right?”

Hmmm, maybe not.

What if this was the most dangerous illusion and the biggest lie we tell ourselves?

Let’s do a quick analysis:

  • How many emails do we receive a day?

  • How many of those emails are subscription emails?

  • How many subscriptions emails do we delete without reading them?

  • How many subscription emails do we save, telling ourselves we will read them later?

  • How many are update emails?

  • How many were sent to us in cc, i.e. “just so we know”

  • How many emails do we get as “updates” on a status that hasn’t changed?

Now let’s do a quick check in. What’s left?

  • How many of the emails left required action?

  • How many of those action emails are actions for others? i.e. how many of those action emails are colleagues asking for a favour? Or people who need our help to get their job done?

Now we get to the crux of it…

  • How many of those emails were responses or information that helped us push our own work and our own ideas forward?

I am going to guess less than 5%…and that’s a very conservative guess.

Break the illusion

If we were told the higher the role or position in the company, the more emails we would get, or the more time we would spend at the computer, would we still want that role or promotion?

We like to think of email as a good invention, replacing snail mail (regular post delivery) and it sure is. It can keep us connected and in touch with loved ones across the world. But do we really enjoy reading, answering and writing emails? Truly?

“Innovation is omission.” — Steven Mc Auley

Email has never solved a work problem. We use it every single day and we allow it to suck up hours of our day, and the real work — the work that is for ourselves and that would push our creative and innovative work forward — is sucked into the email void.

How much would we achieve if we didn’t have email to answer, reply to, to send in cc, or to “clear”? Once we are in the email cycle we get sucked into the void and we cannot leave it. Even when we do leave it, we leave a window open and — ping! — another email appears and hey, it might be important so we check it and down the rabbit hole we go again!

Unleashing innovation

I have been diligent in working to build productive habits over the three years I have been a freelancer and entrepreneur. It is the only way to accomplish any work or build something of value!

My colleague and friend Steven Mc Auley is a serial entrepreneur and we have discussed the techniques to increasing productivity extensively. He took the time to collect his best findings in The Innovator’s Journal, including 16 challenges to unleash productivity and creativity, and blank journal pages to save those new ideas and innovations when we remove distractions.

Not surprisingly one of the core challenges is aptly titled “No Emails”. As Steven says:

“Innovation is about questioning things, trying new things, and sometimes swimming against the tide.”

Having worked in corporate for over 26 years I can say the idea of not answering emails has seemed unfathomable to me, because it is such a foundational construct of corporate life. However, now, I have a new rule in place that has become irreplaceable. No emails before 10am.

I still take care of my emails, I am super diligent in keeping my mail box empty, however if we ignore emails for even one hour first thing in the morning it can accelerate our work forward extensively.

Let’s reclaim our time

The Innovator’s Challenge:

Try not checking the email inbox for just twenty-four hours.

Yes, Steven is extreme in the challenge he puts forward in The Innovator’s Journal, but it is worth trying this exercise to see how much time can be freed up! Worst case scenario, a few people wait for a response, and if it’s really important they will call us. Not the end of the world after all.

When it comes to it, emails are other people making demands on our time. And we need to take our time back. Once we test this theory, using the challenge, we see through the email illusion and we don’t go back!

By not allowing emails to distract me -and give me a false sense of accomplishment — I actually find time to innovate, be creative and push my own ideas forward, rather than doing someone else’s work before my own.

My colleague is right, if it’s really important, they’ll call.

. . .

Instagram: Raj Hayer | Image Design: Rat Design

Interested in the other challenges? Please order The Innovators Journal directly from TinyBox to ensure the author receives the income directly.

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