Take a moment and run through the first 15 minutes of your day with me. Any day of the week, a “work day,” the weekend, any day you like.
What does your morning routine look like?
You wake up.
You go to the bathroom.
You may read, meditate, exercise, or all of the above.
Do you eat breakfast?
Maybe you do everything in my small list above.
But I can almost guarantee you: pretty early on in the list, you check your email.
Most of you probably even roll over in bed–before you even wake up completely, before you even use the bathroom–and check your email on your phone.
Let’s admit it, we’re slaves to our email.
And as an entrepreneur, you may be even more keen to check the “latest” from your inbox every morning.
Then, you spend the rest of your day checking email every (what?) 30 minutes? 15 minutes? Maybe every time your phone vibrates or dings?
You’re addicted to email
Admit it. You’re addicted to email.
We all are.
I’m guilty of the same behavior.
But a couple of years ago, I started to notice just how much email was taking over my life.
I found myself checking email compulsively during important family time. It’s not that I was expecting anything urgent, it was just habit. I didn’t even respond half the time (because typing on a phone wasn’t always as awesome as it is now). I just felt the need to constantly be watching my inbox.
After a while, I noticed email was killing me. And it was hurting my business too.
Today, I’m proposing a few ways email is killing you and your business plus how to make email a more healthy part of your life and work.
5 Ways email is killing you + how to make email a healthy part of life & work
I’m not inherently opposed to email. But when it starts messing with my work, my business, and my personal life, I have to draw the line.
Keep reading if you’re ready to take control of your email (instead of it taking control of you) too.
1. Email is setting your priorities for the day.
Have you ever started your work day with a solid plan of what you want to accomplish during the day?
You work hard all day long and, at the end of the day, you review the list of items you were planning to get done.
And…you only accomplished 10% of your goals for the day.
But how can that be? You set your priorities. You knew what you had to get done. And you slated plenty of time for it.
If you think back, you’ll realize your real priorities were frequently interrupted with a “ding” of your phone or a gmail desktop notification which led you on a wild goose chase to solve someone else’s priority problem for the day.
Email is the way other people trick you into ignoring your priorities and working on theirs. Don’t fall for it.
Solution: Set your own priorities and get to work on them immediately during the work day. Only when you’ve finished your first few priorities are you allowed to check your email.
For example: I’m writing this blog post early in the morning. It’s the best time of the day for me to write. I haven’t checked my email yet. And I won’t be checking it until I’m done with this post.
2. Email is interrupting your most important work.
Even if checking your email isn’t completely derailing your day, you still run the risk of letting email interrupt some of your day’s most important work.
Imagine you’re working hard to write a blog post or design a poster. You’re really in the groove. You’re feeling amazing. Time is flying. And suddenly…
You’ve got mail.
You already realized you can’t let email set your priorities for the day (tip #1 above), but you figure there’s no harm in a quick check.
It turns out, it’s an email from your favorite blog, so you click the headline.
You read the article and click to share it on twitter.
Which leads you to skim your twitter feed and click a few more stories you find interesting.
By the time you realize you’re deep in a rabbit hole of nothingness on the internet, you run back to the half-finished blog post or poster.
But it’s too late. You’ve lost your momentum. And you have to remember where you were and what your thought process was. It takes time to get back in the groove you had just minutes before.
Now multiply this scenario by 10-20 times each day and you’ll see why email is a huge interruption to the most important work you’re doing for the day.
Solution: Set times each day that you’ll make time to check your email. Some businesses and clients will be more needy than others (you may need to check your email every hour or two). But the point is to set a time that you check your email and stick to it.
For example: On days when I’m working hard to crank out a project, I check my email twice every day. Once around 10am and again around 5 pm. Important tasks get put into my to-do list (see point #5).
3. Email is interrupting your life “off the clock.”
Our studies here at Millo show that most people get into entrepreneurship in order to build a better life for themselves.
A life with more freedom and flexibility to live life outside of work.
And yet, even those of us who value “after-hours” life find ourselves allowing email to interrupt family time, personal time, and any other non-work time.
Don’t let the constant ding of your email app distract you from what’s really important.
Solution: Turn off your email app’s push notifications. Only check email intentionally when you’re ready to get some work done. If turning off app notifications isn’t enough, remove your email app until you get used to not checking it every 5 minutes.
4. Email is fake work.
Email is work about the real work.
Let’s face it.
Checking email itself is rarely a job on it’s own. Aside from billionaire CEOs who hire email assistants because they get so much email they can’t sort through it all themselves, very few people in this world have a job or a business that relies solely on checking, organizing and responding to email.
Email is a tool we use to get the real work of our business done.
We get email from a client about changes they want to make to their web site. The email isn’t the work. The changes to the website are the real work.
We use email to ask a member of our team to complete a task by a certain day. The email isn’t the work. The task you assigned is the work.
It can be really easy to get caught up in an “inbox zero” mentality and fool ourselves into thinking we’ve actually accomplished something by the end of the day.
In reality, we’ve accomplished very little real work.
Solution: Limit the amount of time you’ll let yourself spend on email every day. Get in and out quickly and move on to the real work that moves your business forward.
5. Email is turning into a “to-do” list.
Since most of the emails we send and receive quickly turn into to-do items, it can be easy to turn your email software into to-do software.
The truth is, though, that most email apps aren’t meant to be used as to-do apps. At least not the kind that really help you focus on the most important work.
For that, you should probably be using something a bit more tailored to productivity. For example, I use Trello (not getting paid to link) and it helps me keep my eye on what’s important to me and my business.
The coolest part? Trello gives me an email address I can forward emails to and converts them into to-dos really quickly and easily.
Solution: Find a simple piece of software that organizes your to-dos in a way that’s easy for you to find, organize, and check off. Email is meant for communication, not project management.
Ready to save yourself from email?
If you’ve been resonating with this post, it’s time to move on from letting email rule your life and your business.