About a month ago, I did something somewhat drastic. I deleted the email app from my phone. Why did I do this? Because I realized email is a distraction. Like most of us, I was constantly checking it. An unstructured approach to email where you’re checking it all day impedes your productivity. How many times a day do you mentally change gears in response to an email? It causes loss of focus and keeps you in a reactive state.
I consider email “death by a thousand cuts” because it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing things but it really keeps you playing defense instead of offense. What most of us typically do is check email as soon as we wake up in the morning. It’s also the last thing we do before we go to sleep. What is this actually doing to us? It’s encouraging the wrong emotions and it starts your day off on the wrong foot – reactive instead of proactive.
Email can be so stressful. Don’t let it affect your stress level and cause you to lose focus. Let email be a part of your communication but don’t let it be the sun and you the earth that navigates around it. You control these tools and functions, how people get to you, and how you want to communicate. Taking control begins with the simple task of just deleting the email app off your phone. Choose to only access your email via your computer, and set parameters around when you will check it and when you’ll respond. Here are three steps that I recommend to end the death by a thousand cuts:
1. Schedule your day
When you wake up in the morning, that’s your sacred time. And so is your evening. Fill your morning and evening routines with things that you want to do. If you’re doing something creative or spending time with family or working out, that’s your offense. That’s something for you.
When you start your workday, you need structure in place, especially if you’re working in a project-based role like marketing or operations. You need to set time aside to work on projects and you need to set up specific times to check your email; maybe mid-morning, midday, and later in the day. If you’re constantly stopping to open and address your inbox, you’re not going to have the structure you need to accomplish your daily tasks. And that brings us to the next step:
2. List six to eight tasks to accomplish each day
Most likely you’ll have six to eight key tasks that you want to get done every day, and you’re not going to be able to do them if you’re distracted and constantly interrupted. Checking email has become a reflex. It reminds me of Pavlov’s dog. You don’t think about it because you just stay in your routine. Instead, keep your email closed or minimized and don’t look at it until its the time you’ve chosen to focus on it.
If you make the decision to deprioritize your inbox, I promise you that you’ll have a higher propensity of accomplishing the six to eight key things that you set out to do each day.
3. Assign priority to the three main forms of communication
There are three major forms of communication – emails, texts, and phone calls. Of these, email is not supposed to be for urgent matters. You’ll get to emails when you can. Text is instant but not as important. In some cases, it may be a little bit more important than email because it’s more immediate and there’s usually a personal relationship if you’re texting somebody. A phone call typically has a more elevated sense of urgency because someone took the time to call you. So why not respond to and treat email the way it’s designed to be treated rather than a race. Here’s how I prioritize these three:
- Email – respond within 24-48 hrs
- Text message – respond pretty quickly
- Phone calls – respond immediately
The point of these changes I made was to optimize and make a productivity decision, and the result was as drastic as deleting my email app. My productivity and creativity levels have increased and my stress level has decreased. You need to have a balanced life if you want to be a balanced leader who can manage stress, especially in the current environment where there’s a lot of negativity and not a lot of hope.
You also need to be on the offense if you’re trying to grow a business or trying to grow your team. Whether you’re an executive, a business leader, or a business owner, this is an absolute no-brainer. So here’s my tip. It’s simple, sweet, and short. Delete your email app and never look back.