Dealing with e-mail can be like shoveling in a snow storm. Reply to 10 e-mails, press the Send and Retrieve icon, and 15 more arrive. Answer those, and 20 more roll in. If you have an empty inbox, you’re likely unemployed.
To handle this flood of messages, many people keep their e-mail application open at all times; replying to messages as they come in. They become addicted to their e-mail. The result is that their workday never includes uninterrupted blocks of time to focus on tasks that require reflection and concentration.
This type of workday is unproductive and demoralizing. In addition, research indicates it’s bad for brain health. A better solution is to schedule replying to e-mail for specific times of the day, be disciplined about replying to urgent messages first, and leave blocks available to do actual focused work.
Because of the volume of messages we need to deal with, a fundamental skill all knowledge workers need is the ability to manage e-mail. New tools are beginning to appear to help workers acquire these skills. TechDirt writes about one such tool, HitMeLater. Just forward any e-mail to a special address, and the service sends it back to you as a reminder on the date and time you determine.
What a great idea. Gone are the dozens of items I have flagged for follow-up. I’m sold.