If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I talk a lot about stewardship.
I believe we’re called to be good stewards of our time, as well as our money. Even if you don’t agree though, I’m sure you’d like to find a way to save time and add a few extra hours to your week.
At least I know I would!
Well, if you communicate via email like most people, you’re in luck. There’s a quick, simple way to save time (lots of it!) and be more productive so you can have more time to focus on the things that really matter.
Save time by checking email less often
To save time, you need to stop checking your email.
I’m not saying stop checking your email altogether, just stop checking it so often.
Turn off the alerts on your email program (i.e. Outlook, Gmail, etc.), your smartphone, and any other email alerts you might have. Then make a commitment to only check and respond to emails at prescheduled times throughout the day.
For some types of jobs, that might mean hourly, whereas for other jobs that might mean 1-3 evenly spaced times throughout the day, but regardless, it means stop checking it as often as you are now!
Research done by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2012 found that “knowledge workers” (i.e. pretty much anyone who uses email for their job on a daily basis), on average, spend 28% of their work day reading and replying to emails.
That’s a little over 11 hours per week for a 40 hour work week (i.e. over 2 hours per day for someone who works five days a week).
Regardless of how often you’re currently checking your email, odds are you’re checking it too often and it’s interfering with your productivity, thereby wasting lots of precious time.
(Check out this blog post for more information on another practical way to save time on tasks like email, bill paying, and social media and check out this post to learn an efficient way to get your email inbox to “zero” every day.)
A parable for productivity
I can’t remember the source, but I read a story once of a man who loved going to the mailbox in front of his house and pulling out the giant pile of letters, bills, postcards, and even junk mail, delivered to his house each day.
From 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day, he would sit in his living room next to the window facing the street, and every few minutes he’d peek through the curtains to see whether or not the mailman was there delivering his mail.
In fact, he loved getting the mail so much, that every 20-30 minutes, he would even run out to the mailbox and open it to check and make sure he didn’t just happen to miss the mailman during the times he wasn’t looking out the window.
I realize this sounds ridiculous, but this is exactly the way many people treat their email.
They constantly check, recheck, and check again to see whether or not they have any new email. And believe me, I get it. I’ve been there.
In our technology driven and hyper-connected world, it sometimes feels like since we CAN check our email often, we SHOULD check our email often. But that’s just a lie we’ve told ourselves to make us look busy and feel more productive.
You don’t have time to waste
In reality, this constant checking and rechecking of our email is incredibly unproductive and wastes lots of time—time that we don’t have the luxury of wasting!
So, do yourself a favor and try not checking your email as often this week. Set a specific time (or times) each day where you’re going to read and reply to emails, and then refuse to check it outside of those times.
That is, unless you want to look like the guy who’s constantly running in and out of his house to his mailbox to see if he has any new mail. If that’s the life you’re wanting though, then by all means, feel free to constantly check your email.
But if that’s you, then don’t be surprised if one day in the near or distant future, you look up from your phone after checking your email, only to realize your life has passed you by.
And you’ll sit there wondering, “Why didn’t someone email me about this?”
It’s time to be better stewards of not only our money, but our time as well.
(This post was inspired by a great, new book I recently read on productivity called What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. Matt also writes regularly about time management and productivity on his blog at ww.whatsbestnext.com.)