Kill the Beast! Kill the Beast! As I wait this week, with bated breath, for “Beauty and the Beast” to come out in non-animated movie format, I cannot help but think of emails as the beast in our daily lives.
We attack emails each day with a “kill the beast” mentality that rivals an angry crowd in a foreign land. Email, the quick, easy, and effective way to communicate has gotten out of control.
I teach a topic called Time, Priority, and Energy Management. The topic has many great tips and resources from time and priority management gurus such as Franklin Covey, as well as HBR’s Getting the Right Work Done.
When I teach this topic, I merely mention a few helpful hints about taming emails to my audience, and there is a collective sigh that says “It can’t be done. We simply cannot, and will not, be able to tame this beast”.
Never say never when it comes to something as important as your time, and the energy you have to give to your position as a leader all day.
Your employees, family, and friends need you, not what is left over from a day of a computer sucking your brain dry.
There is likely nothing in your leadership life that makes you feel overly busy, and mentally fractured like the daunting task of responding to too many emails in your day.
When I cook, and I love to cook, I always need to clean the kitchen first or the enjoyment gets taken right out of cooking . Emails are the clutter that fills up our daily inbox. It creates this sense of messiness and urgency.
What if you do not reply right away? You may be seen as a poor communicator, or worse yet- you are not a responsive leader.
It is time we placed less emphasis on emails in the sense of urgency and robotic communication they represent, and return to the useful leadership tool they once were.
That is the primary lesson from this blog. Emails are a tool, not a strategy or plan for your future.
They may currently detract from your leadership. Let’s look at how to make emails add to your leadership and effectiveness.
“Most of us live our lives by accident- we live it as it happens. Fulfillment comes when we live our lives on purpose” -Simon Sinek
Some oh-so-useful tips to assist you. Remember, you cannot adopt several changes at once. Try to adopt one at a time. Challenge yourself to try something new for 30 days. We work with one hospital that has asked their leaders to adopt one thing every 100 days. Either works! Just don’t forget to circle back and pick up new habits you want to try.
- Several resources I searched really and truly recommend that you do not check your emails continuously throughout the day. Set aside Email checking times . Make sure one of them is NOT as soon as you hit your desk in the morning. If you do this, your inbox quickly becomes your to-do list. Finish a “Big Rock“ first, or at least work on a “big rock (aka project)" for an hour prior to quickly scanning your inbox.
- In order to make tip number one work, you need to implement tip number two first. That is to communicate with others around you that you are going to begin checking your emails only a few times a day. Define what urgent communication requires instant communication like texting. My business partner and I need to have this talk. We text each other when it is convenient for us, as we are on the fly a lot. Yet, a text does not create the same, "I have to do something now” like an email or face-to-face conversation does. This leads to tip number three.
- Define what really needs to be face-to-face communication, texting, or emails. Better yet, Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone for a reason. Your voice on the other line, asking a colleague, “is this a good time?” is not interruptive.
- Turn off the distractions of emails while you are working. Your computer will allow for this. It is a smart machine. If you are going to stick to tip number one, you will need to be able to focus when you are at your desk. Reading emails and responding as soon as they come in is a lot like chasing butterflies. Soon, you will look around the meadow that is your office and think, “Where was I? Where am I now?”
- Tip number five: Sort your emails appropriately. One of the reasons your mind and inbox both seem so cluttered is that you may be treating everything with the same level of importance. It’s still okay to quickly read and effectively respond to any email you can take care of in two minutes or less at certain times of the day. You may need to set a timer to avoid the chasing of the butterflies however. I am referring to a different type of sorting.
- Tip number six. Write effectively, and ask others to do so as well. If someone writes you a book instead of an email, set a good example by calling them back. Let them know that some conversations are just best experienced in person or by voice! Emails are meant to be very, very brief.
Simon Sinek is correct that when something in our daily lives gets way out of control it seems as though we have lost our purpose. Gaining control of your emails may seem like a small, and inconsequential thing, but the precious time that comes back to you in the form of visionary and strategic leadership will be well worth it!
Dear reader, thanks for the read! Our CSUITE retreat and Summits have many leadership tips to make your work more fulfilling just like this one. Hope to see you soon! Best, Jane