The One With The Guide To Not Checking Email

The One With The Guide To Not Checking Email

Two years ago I wrote about the low information diet, a practice which encourage you to check emails only twice a day (link to free ebook), and therefore getting more things done in a day. My experiment was successful to some extent; that is, until my boss wrote to me that she was not comfortable with my autoresponders and asked me to do away with it.


Fast forward to today. I still believe that email is a necessary evil in today’s environment, both on professional and personal capacities. Therefore when I was offered a guide on how NOT to check email as a result from registration with, I acted without hesitation.

The 30 minutes I spent reading the 26-page ebook was the best time investment I have made in recent weeks.

Granted, there are many points raised in the guide which are already a part of my daily habits. Case in point:

Email is not the core of the work we’re paid to do, yet it is taking up more and more of our time. Large volume of emails seems to be a way of life in my company, much to my alarm. Often I see colleagues spent hours after hours reading, pondering over, replying and processing emails while sitting at their desks. We shouldn’t call ourselves couch potatoes. We are the new age inbox potatoes.

If you can focus on one task at a time, you’ll be much more productive. Easier said than done, but if you never start, you will never be. Often I try to focus on one job at a time, except for the occasional phone calls, MSN chats and colleagues dropping by my desk. There is something victorious about completing a job from start to end in one sitting. In the guide, this is called “batching” and can be applied to many things apart from emails.

Experience an empty inbox as soon as possible since it’ll be part of the motivation to help you to succeed. Call it a measure of success of what you are about to experiment with. A good day at work, to me, is when I can leave office knowing my inbox is entirely empty. It might not happen everyday, but at least it should happen enough to know that you are being productive at work and things get done. The guide shows a couple of ways on how to achieve this state of nirvana (I am not exaggerating), and I recommend you to try every single one of them.

If a message takes longer than two minutes to act on, place its actionable items on your task list, and then archive or delete it. A simple task list system works for me; I use a stack of six pieces of blank paper as my weekly to-do list. On each day (per piece of paper), I will jot down no more than four major tasks that need to be executed by me. Follow-ups with other people, including emails and phone calls, are marked with stars. If a day has reached its limit of four major tasks, I simply look on to other days. The last piece of task list is for jobs/follow-ups which I can bring forward to next week.

Turning off email notifications. I can’t stress this enough. Your ability to focus single-mindedly onto one task while at your computer will depend on the absence of email alerts. Turn it off. Nobody gets killed because of missing an email. Better still, turn off every single other alert settings you have on your desktop, such as MSN. You don’t need to know every time someone on your overflowing contact list comes online!

The one thing I have yet to experiment with is to set email filters; something which I will try to do at work and, if successful, will extend to my personal email.

These productivity techniques are not rocket science. More often than not, they are merely “advanced common sense”.

Gain back the control of your inbox. Work can be less stressful than you think.

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