Randal Wark

The firehose of daily morning emails was giving me e-anxiety.  Most of it was worthless information, but I had to delete my way to what was important.  “ENOUGH!”, I said.  So began my experiment of using my favorite new word:  Unsubscribe.

Emails are a mixed blessing.  I love communicating via email because I can craft my response.  I can read over my thoughts and organize them in a way that conveys the message I want, in the tone that I want.  It’s not perfect, but I’ve put out many fires with a well-designed email.  The dark side of emails is that we are flooded with emails non-stop daily, so your message gets lost in the stream of the firehose.

For a week, I unsubscribed to 90% of the email lists I found myself on.  Every list that I unsubscribed from, brought incremental relief.  Yet, I still had a sizable inbox every day.  Some emails I really needed, but I did not necessarily need to look at them daily.  I then started turning on Outlook’s superpower…rules.  For example, do I really need to know if a backup was successful?  No, but I do need to know if it fails!  Simple…I created a rule with the keyword successful…move to trash.  Those emails I did need to keep but not read immediately, I just automatically moved to a sub-folder.

I cannot believe how many times I hit unsubscribe.  It’s been over 30 days, and I’m still finding myself on various mailing lists.  The battle continues, but the results have been incredible.  All that effort began to pay off when I realized that my morning emails went from a firehose to a garden hose.

One of the greatest swindle is the word:  multi-tasking.  The reality is that multi-tasking is not the way our brain was designed.  When we are deep in thought or in flow working on something, the distraction of emails can easily break the flow and distract us.

NOTIFICATIONS were the culprit.  I would be working on something and the pop-up would arrive that I received an email.  Resistance is futile, I had to look, thus breaking the flow of concentration.  IKEA is having a sale…great, I go to Outlook and hit delete.  Now, where was I?

Notification:  OFF   Email Client:  CLOSED

Some have found the strategy of only dealing with emails at fixed times during the day.  The most common is 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.  An auto-responder advises the sender that their email is important, but it will only be addressed at those times.  That first hour or more in the morning, before reading emails allows you to work on what YOU need to accomplish.  Emails are mostly what OTHER people need from you.  By starting your day with emails, you right away get diverted to someone else’s agenda.

I didn’t go that far, but for at least one hour in the morning, I work on what I need to do to move my company forward before turning on the garden hose of emails.  The results have been dramatic.

Some companies actually block employees from getting emails while they are on vacation.  Emails bounce back, yes, they don’t just wait for them upon their return, they bounce back to the sender.  The sender is notified that so-and-so is on vacation and that their email was NOT delivered.  They are given someone else’s email that is replacing them and if it’s urgent, they should contact them instead.  Effectively, they are making itimpossible for the employee to think about work during their holiday.  The result?  The holiday that employee gets allows them to disconnect completely.  They can be present with their friends and family and that allows them to have better relationships and truly recharge.  They come back with renewed energy and work harder.

My experiment started with unsubscribing from emails, then removing notifications and finally controlling when I work on emails, which I do in batches.  The results are that I can do real work, at least one hour to begin my day with a win.  I can’t ignore the emails, but I can control when it needs my attention.  I can then write this article.

Take the challenge:

  1. Unsubscribe from 90% of emails. But please do not unsubscribe to our e-mails from e-channelnews.com and technoplanet.com
  2. Learn about email rules and automate daily tasks.
  3. Turn off notifications.
  4. Delay by 1 hour checking your emails and do real work.

Email me after 30 days to let me know the results:  randal@itrevolution.ca  These emails I will read!

Randal Wark

About the Author:  Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and Co-Found of VAR MasterMind, building peer groups for IT business owners to ensure success and save valuable time.