For most of us, email just eats up our time – it’s the Time Vampire that hovers over our shoulder sucking away precious life blood from our day. I’m quite convinced that when we’re much older, we’ll regret the time we lost to checking email.
Many of us feel that checking email is work. It’s certainly a precursor to work and is definitely a bi-product of work – it is rarely work in itself, so should we be allowing it to dominate our time and lives so much? And is it that important that we have to be checking and attending to our emails seemingly constantly? I have a business acquaintance who sees “Inbox Zero” as the Holy Grail.
There are countless statistics which profess to tell us how often we check our smartphones for email, and whatever the figure is, we all know that we do it too much.
Cue my other friend, a thirty-something singing teacher. Ellen runs her own classes and also travels between various schools to give lessons to local pupils. She’s talented, in demand, busy and loves her life.
But when you send an email to Ellen, don’t expect a reply too soon because she is one of those people who still only checks her email once a week. If you want a quick reply, you have to find out her ‘email day’ and send your message the day before.
It’s frustrating when you’re trying to make arrangements with her that she doesn’t reply to emails straight away, but is that frustration Ellen’s fault – or my fault that I let it be a frustration? Who am I to criticise her for being organised!
Two people have mentioned Ellen’s email management strategy to me recently in a manner that suggested she’s some sort of social outcast, but I can’t help smiling to myself that we’ve only got ourselves to blame for allowing email to dominate our lives so much.
And it’s only getting worse. Just like email and SMS, Twitter now makes demands on our time, and frankly we’re not in control of it.
I for one am fighting back to reclaim some time. I’m as bad as everyone else when it comes to checking my phone, and a recent analysis of my inbox suggests that less than 1% of my emails over a thirty day period required an immediate response. This means that I do in fact have the time to do something much more productive – like Yoga and fitness.
After a lifetime of very little regular physical exercise, I’ve now been to the gym pretty well every day this year and during that time I don’t look at my phone once. That’s about 60 – 90 minutes a day without checking email or tweets or messages, and there have been three very clear outcomes.
Two people told me yesterday that although they would also like to go to the gym or do Yoga regularly, they simply couldn’t afford to give up the time. And I can sympathise with that thinking because I used to take exactly the same view – until I attended my first class at the health club. And it all starts with your very first visit.
So what were those outcomes?
Firstly, I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been – and that in turn has dramatically improved my efficiency at work. Simple.
So when I am working and checking emails, I’m dealing with it faster, more accurately and with far greater zest and energy. I’d also say that I’ve become a lot more creative in my thinking and planning processes and I have a spring in my step.
So whilst I won’t be following Ellen’s approach to Time Management, I now have my own. One that invests in time which is a) good for my health and well-being, and b) which in itself makes me far more efficient, effective and productive in my working life.
The first class or trip to the gym is the hardest – not for the physicality, but for having the guts to invest the time to go. And it’s not ‘give up’ the time; but ‘invest’ the time.
And when your first class is finished – be it Yoga or a gym session – you immediately realise how important it is to ‘make’ the time.
I said there was a third outcome. Going to Yoga and the gym on a regular basis has been amazing for networking. Since the start of the year I’ve made three superb new business connections and have been booked to give a workshop on how local businesses can leverage LinkedIn. The venue? The health club.
Time Management and email is a big issue for most people – whether you run your own business or are a busy executive in the corporate world. I’m no health expert, but I do know that investing time in looking after myself will have a profound impact on my working life.
By Philip Calvert