I used to get to the office, fire up Microsoft Outlook, and start going through my emails, pounding our replies, printing attachments, and getting “in the thick of things”.
That’s what most people do, and that’s what I did for years. About a year ago, I radically changed my approach though, and my productivity skyrocketed (from this change alone), and my stress level dropped almost immediately.
I used to feel frustrated when hours of hard work never made a dent in the volume of emails and requests I would get on any particular day.
The change in my approach (described below) gave me back control over my own schedule.
Think about it this way:
Replying to emails means you’re working for someone else’s agenda, meeting someone else’s “demanding” schedule, certainly not yours!
You are “reacting” to someone else, giving them something THEY want (response, comment, approval, etc).
If you want to keep stress levels low, start by making sure that YOU are in control of your own agenda, not someone else (other people’s emails).
Step 1: Make your to do list “for the day” (generic to do lists with endless bullet points NEVER work).
Step 2: Go through that to do list, and make calls, send out emails that are a priority FOR YOU (let someone else work on YOUR agenda).
Step 3: Go through your emails, and SORT THEM BEFORE REPLYING into 3 buckets: reply now, reply today, reply later.
Step 4: Spend 10-15min dealing with your “reply now” bucket, then close Outlook and focus on your TO DO LIST!
Step 5: Every couple of hours, go back to your emails and deal with a few from the “today” bucket.
For more info on how to be most efficient in dealing with a massive number of emails, read My 1-minute rule for emails.