5 February 2013

Beware – Email Can Steal Your Best Time

What work task do you start the day with? Is it email? Many of us think ‘I’ll just get this out of the way and then I’ll be clear for the big jobs.’ And then what happens? Have you noticed that email seems to take on a life of its own?

I had another excellent reminder of this the other day. Even though I teach people to start on the important tasks first, I too sometimes get seduced by the lure of ‘first I’ll clear the email.’ The week in question was the first for ages that I’d been in the office for three consecutive days. Let me describe the first two days.

As you’d imagine I was keen to catch up on a backlog of tasks. ‘Surely the email won’t take long,’ I convinced myself. (The little voice on my shoulder whispered ‘Don’t go there’ but I pushed it impatiently aside.)

Sure enough, by the time the first batch of mail was out of the way, answers needing reply had started bouncing back; phones were ringing; people wanted my attention. I was on a roll, and I just wanted to get that damned Inbox down to a respectable level. Every time I went back to check something, new mail had popped in. It was a bit like trying to beat Solitaire! You persuade yourself that ‘this time I’ll win’. Yeah, right!

At the end of each of these two days I noticed a dull sense of dissatisfaction. It felt as though I’d been dragged with barely a whimper into a never-ending whirlpool of digital interactions. It didn’t feel that I’d wasted time. Everything was appropriate. BUT – the two most important tasks for the week still languished.

The third morning, lying in bed reflecting on the day ahead, I gave myself a stern talking-to. It went a bit like ‘Robyn, you know better than this!’ (Maybe I have to stumble from time to time to keep empathy with my similarly-struggling clients.)

First coffee for the day in hand, I approached the seemingly innocuous lump of metal on my desk with steely resolve. I applied my own good advice – and didn’t turn on the email programme first thing. As I well knew, starting with the most important task was the answer. Outlook didn’t get an ‘In-look’ – I knew from past experience that ‘email first’ for me at least, was an insidious bad habit that I had to snap out of. Clearly, after two days of having its own way, this particular unproductive practice was doing its sneaky best to creep back in.

The first item on the list was a short but important preliminary outline requested by a client. We’d both agreed that it wasn’t urgent and he was quite happy to wait, but the ‘wait’ was becoming embarrassing to me, even if he was still cool. With optimistic intention I’d even carted meeting notes to Germany and back a few weeks earlier! Enough was enough!

All my client wanted was an emailed outline but I knew it would take me about half an hour of thinking and concentration. So, even though the logical place to create this was in Outlook, instead I compiled it in Word and only at the conclusion, resolutely NOT looking at any new incoming mail, transferred the content into email format for transmission.

You might be much better disciplined than me, and of course your work may require you to check the mailbox before you can sort your priorities for the day. One thing I’ve learnt in this business of being a trainer and speaker is that there is no ‘one right way’ in anything. So take out of this example what’s useful and leave the rest. But if you can identify with my little tussle, hopefully either the process I went through or one of the next three strategies might be of help.

Three other focusing strategies:

  • If today’s time-critical tasks have paper-work attached to them, physically prioritise them – but don’t leave them sitting right under your nose. Place them nearby, but ideally slightly out of eye-range. Our potential interruption zone is what our peripheral vision can see as we work on something else. For instance, if most of your work is computer-based, notice what you can see while you type. Try to keep that space clear of anything that will distract you. Waiting tasks send out a subliminal message saying ‘Pick me, pick me!’
  • Use your paper diary (or Task List in your digital calendar) to list the tasks for the day. Even if you’ve got 20 items on the list, number just the Top 5 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (wherever they are on the list) and stay focused on those tasks for all except the most critical interruptions. If you’re using an electronic system, simply place the relevant number at the beginning of the line of type, click on the bar above and it will instantly sort into numerical order. The items with no numbers will fall neatly into line below the numbered tasks.
  • Just in case your good intentions slip away overnight, before you leave work for the day, place the most important task (or a reminder note) in splendid prominence at your workstation. (This is especially effective if your space is uncluttered. If hundreds of other ‘distractions’ also share that primary piece of real estate called your desk, the effectiveness of this idea will be seriously diluted.)

And now, enjoy the sense of accomplishment as you keep focused on the Main Things.





Are your days too short, workload too large and work-life balance a pipe dream?

Take a look at these Books, E-books, CDs/Teleseminars, Online Courses/Webinars and Tools. They provide practical, effective and easy to implement ways for you to free up your time, improve your productivity and reduce stress from overload.



Webmasters/Ezine Publishers: Would you like to use this article?
You are invited to use any of our articles in your publication or website. The only requirements are that we are included on your mailing list, and that you include the following, after each article you use...

Robyn Pearce CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) is the Time Queen. She mastered her own time challenges and now helps people around the world overcome theirs. She can show you how to transform your time challenges into high productivity and the life balance you desire.

Get your free report 'How To Master Time In Only 90 Seconds' and ongoing time tips at gettingagrip.com.

© All Rights Reserved to Robyn Pearce, GettingAGrip.com, 25 Keven Road, R.D.4, Pukekohe, South Auckland 2679, New Zealand Ph.+ 64 9 232 0523


If you'd like Robyn to write something specific for your industry, please email us with your request.

Planning & Prioritising Online Course, $100 introductory price

Get Your Free
'How To Master Time'
Report

Image

Plus your FREE Time Resources Pack (Valued at $227)




Image

Client Testimonials

Catalyst For Efficiency ImprovementsIt was great to introduce our two job-share receptionists to Robyn’s Getting a Grip on The Paper War text.  It became a catalyst for us to improve our administration proce..." Marie Collins, Business Manager, The NZ Institute of Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery

Enhanced Efficiency Thank you for all the tips and words of advice you and your team have sent through.I have been constantly reading it and it does wonders to my line of work and also being a wife and mot..." Anaseini Liku, Communication & Media Coordinator, Ministry of Education, Cook Islands

Clear Directions Enhance Use Of TimeI have just finished reading 'Getting a Grip on Time' and 'Getting a Grip on the Paper War'.  Particularly your book on 'Time' got me back on track, and during the day I catc..." Ingrid Geerlings, Owner, www.houseofmilk.com

Leadership Book Helps To find the Real Me‘I’ve just been reading ‘Getting a grip on Leadership’.  It is very good and has had an impact on me.  I realised I’d lost my way a bit re who I am ..." Heather Millar, Manager, Professional Practice, Central North Island Kindergarten Association, New Zealand

Additional $120,000 Billed After Time Management CourseI have personally known Robyn Pearce for around 16 years. From time to time my firm has contracted Robyn on a project basis to work with our professional staff as well as partners in the fi..." John Hackett, Partner, A J Park, New Zealand

The Librarian Who Got Her Life Back!The kick-start that I needed was delivered by a velvet glove, but make no mistake the iron hand within the glove ensured that the message was received and understood. If you are going to spend some..." Heather Jenks, Associate University Librarian (Research and Learning Services), University of Canterbury

Increasing Personal Confidence And Job ManagementHaving worked already very successfully with our NZ Team, Robyn's support of the Australian Team over a 12-month period was fundamental to helping us cope with increased day to day workload - espec..." Julia Braun, General Manager - Marketing, Beiersdorf Australia

A Great Empathy And Affinity With PeopleI have used Robyn as an Executive Coach for key Senior Staff for a number of years now and couldn't recommend her more highly. I've found as people step up in the organisation they often struggle t..." Merilyn Havler, Then General Manager, Beiersdorf New Zealand

An Increase of 30% In Gross Turnover Due To Better SystemsWhen we reviewed the progress made as a result of your concepts, a staggering number of them had become an integral part of our day to day business, collectively making a huge difference to our eff..." Wayne & Lisa Hughes, Occupational Therapy Helping Children, NSW, Australia

Motivational And Thought Provoking SessionI'd like to highlight the benefits felt both by the staff members attending your sessions, and the motivational flow-on effects experienced throughout the Hotel.In the developmental sta..." Human Resources Manager, Wentworth Hotel (part of the Rydges chain)

Successful Paper Management Seminar Thank you for your interesting and indeed challenging speech. I could see all the people who've ..." Australian Institute of Credit Managers, Sydney Branch

Personalised Seminar For Long-term Results On behalf of the team at Strategic Lifestyle Management and our client Lend Lease I would..." SLM Conference and Incentive Manager, for client Lend Lease

Excellent Skilful Presenter "Thank you for the practical and informative Time Management seminar you recently gave to our senior m..." HR Manager, ANA Hotel, Sydney

Improve Your Organisation And Productivity The response to the program was extremely positive, with an average rating of 4.4 out of ..." Noel Cook, GM, Outdoor Network, Australia

Organisational Skills Improve To Lift Productivity Your time management seminars are one of the best things we've ever done. Weeks l..." Centrelink, Dubbo, New South Wales

Productivity Increased 50% Now several months later and my productivity has increased between 30% and 50%. I'm seeing more and bette..." Senior financial planner, IPAC, Australia

Timesaving Techniques Learned A wonderful surprise to learn how much I had improved since the first programme with you nine months a..." National Sales Manager, Personal Insurance, GIO Australia

Control Gained In Managing Time Feedback from the staff was very positive... all felt they had gained a great deal of control and di..." MD, C.Y. O'Connor College of TAFE, Northam, WA

Immediate Action For Change A lot of great new ideas and some very good new tools that I shall start implementing immediately. Group Services Trainer, Adecco

Increased Efficiency Saves 20-25 Minutes A Day "Many practical hints which helped me reorganise my office, to operate efficiently." ..." Senior Partner, Baldwins (Patent Attorneys)

Invaluable Resources In Time Management Books I would like to take this opportunity to commend you on the flexibility of your approach, and..." Human Resources Manager, Professional Services Review, Canberra

Self Management Crucial In Time Management You presented a most informative and challenging training session. Your ability to gain q..." Human Resources Manager, Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal of NSW

'Time Management Guru'! Once again you combine an enthusiastic presentation style with useful tips and techniques. Succinct and fun ..." Manager - Training & Development, Real Estate Institute of NSW

Beneficial Time Management Ideas Your presentation was brilliant, and your thoughts on how to make time management beneficial to eve..." Barbara McCarthy, President, Chatswood Chamber of Commerce, Sydney

Informative And Energising Speech We could not have chosen better. Your contribution was just what we wanted and needed, and I was t..." Raewyn James, Tamaki Teachers' Conference

Positive Feedback For Speech Robyn, you gave a fantastic speech, and I am still having positive feedback about your talk to this day..." Sales and Marketing Co-ordinator, Swiss Grand Hotel, Bondi, and co-ordinator of Eastern Suburbs Women's Breakfast

Work Life Balance Put Into Practice I know everyone who attended was fascinated by all your planning tips and I know many have put t..." Solo Home Business Network, Sydney

IT Company Gains Insight Into Effective Time Management We were very impressed... everyone gained considerable insight to effective ..." MD, IT software company, Auckland

Professional Approach Reinforces Time Management Principles Following a number of very positive reference checks we invited Robyn Pe..." Godfrey Pembroke National Conference, Hobart, Tasmania

Staff Queue For Time Management Tips! "Thank you! I'm sure you could tell from everyone's enthusiasm that they enjoyed your presenta..." Programme Director, Pioneer SWAP

Specific Personalised Advice Benefits Group Robyn gave much more than the professional information imparted in this kind of session...." Principal Heritage Officer, Heritage Council NSW

They're 'screaming for more'! Thanks for your wonderful presentation. I've had a lot of positive feedback from our staff, and they c..." GM's assistant, Austereo, Australia

L.J. Hooker Predicts Great Success In Using Their Time Your down-to-earth common sense certainly hit home to a lot of people, and the feedba..." Lyn McDermott, Ass. Director, Marketing and Communication, L.J. Hooker Ltd

5 Stars For Time Management Course Robyn, in light of this morning's session (and comments about short emails!) I could leave it the..." Wilf Marley, Principal, Marley Loft Systems (Accountants)

Simple Practical Action Steps For Work Life Balance We've had great feedback since your last session with the NZ Institute of Charte..." Denise Bovaird, Past President, New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants

Improved Focus And Concentration After Time Management Course Since your time management course our managers have found that they ca..." John Moore, Then-HR Manager, International Cricket Council, Dubai

Jam-packed Personalised Seminar Very Effective   Robyn spoke to four of my Academy groups in the space of 11 days. I wa..." Barrie Barrett, Chairman, Academy for Chief Executives, United Kingdom

Awesome says Law Clerk, Bell Gully I just thought I'd spend a few minutes in the Proactive/Value-adding quadrant and let you know ho..." Law Clerk, Bell Gully, New Zealand

Excellent 'Management' Course, As Well As 'Time Management' I would like to extend a huge thank you for making your valuable time av..." David Greenslade, Managing Director, Strategi, New Zealand

We've Regained 30% Of The Time We Used to Lose! Since we worked with Robyn 5 months ago our team of 12 underwriters and support staf..." Senior Underwriter, QBE Insurance, New Zealand

Fantastic Course - Team Feedback Extremely Positive! Thanks very much for the Time Management programme you have conducted over the ..." Gareth McCulloch, National Sales Manager, Southern Hospitality Limited

 
Timely appointment scheduling system