Chances are, you’ve never actually had to drink from a fire hose. And yet, given your steady diet of email, you know exactly what it feels like. Email overwhelm is so severe that it requires a full-time focus just to keep up.
And because you’re in the service industry, there is often a guilty compulsion to answer all of it. Or at least to leave it in your in-box until you get around to it.
Fortunately, you’ve developed an Olympian’s prowess. You check it before your drive to work, as you walk to your car, at the stoplight, on the elevator, during calls, between calls, while waiting for the next meeting, just before you leave the office, just before you get ready for bed, and occasionally on weekends.
At this pace, it’s no wonder that the important stuff, like strategizing, goal-setting, or long-range planning falls into the bucket marked “one of these days.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can turn the fire hose into a much more manageable garden hose with programs like Sanebox or simply by setting up a “Low Priority” folder in Outlook.
Answer emails from your clients and referral sources. Tend to the important and urgent. But when non-critical emails come in, drag them aside to a harmless place where they can sit and wait for you. They won’t clutter your in-box. They won’t stress you out. And in some cases, they won’t get answered, which is just as well given the contents of your “one of these days” bucket.
Then, make an appointment in your calendar for strategizing, goal-setting, and long-range planning. Your business development will benefit far more from an hour spent answering the question “Where do I want my business to be in 5 years?” than it will from the 30 low-priority emails you could have answered during that time.
The solution to email overwhelm is not to answer them more quickly or more frequently. It’s to answer them more selectively. Because the flow is beyond your control. You can’t stop it from coming in. But you can stop yourself from giving so much of your time to it. And you can make smarter choices about where that time goes once you reclaim it.
Authored by David Ackert