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Time Management Bulletin #4

Manage your email through self-discipline.

Handling email is one activity that you must control if you are going to master technology. It seems to be increasing exponentially for most people.

With the mobility of today’s workforce and work itself being more a state of mind than a place that you go to, self-discipline and self-structure are more important than ever.

The age of speed has people accepting as inevitable cell phones ring during lunch hours, e-mail arrives at night and text messages pop up while watching your son’s baseball game. We are allowing technology to control us, rather than the other way around.

Unfortunately to change this requires willpower or self-discipline. I say unfortunately, because self-discipline is not something that comes naturally to most people.

Many people don’t accept responsibility for the impact speed is having on their lives. They blame it on the email, or cell phones that keep interrupting them. It’s as though it’s impossible to ignore email or turn off the cell phone or to schedule specific times to review messages. They think that life is something that happens to them rather than something that happens because of them.

So the first step in controlling our time and our lives is to accept responsibility for what is happening to us – and to decide to change it. Self-discipline or self-control is simply the power to do something when it is easier not to do it. We all have the power but it’s not exercised. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.

Self-discipline has a greater impact on how we manage our time than any other strategy. It is needed in order to form good habits, defeat procrastination, stay organized, and to reap the benefits of delayed gratification.

We must make small changes first. Don’t make it difficult for yourself if you initially lack self-discipline. Build it gradually. For example, if you’re checking email consistently throughout the day, decide to check it four or five times a day, at specific times. Say, first thing in the morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon and evening. Once you have a routine, cut out the early morning, evening and Sunday sessions – and so on – until you have complete control. You will tend to cheat a little at first, and backslide, and that’s OK. You are building a habit, and if you persist, it will become easier to maintain self-discipline.

Schedule specific times to review your email. Work on that one suggestion, and you will be strengthening your self-discipline at the same time.

Controlling e-mail can be a big time saver.

Assume you check email ten times per day, spending ten minutes each time for a total of one hour, forty minutes. During this time let’s say you can handle 50 emails – either replying, deleting, forwarding etc. Instead, if you check your email four times a day, and spend 20 minutes each time, for a total of 1 hour, 20 minutes, during this total time you would probably be able to handle the same 50 emails. But you have done it in 20 minutes less time.

No matter how small the task, there is a setup time. You have a setup time for both the email (opening the program, clicking in the inbox etc.) and for resuming the task that you interrupted in order to check email.

The fewer times you check email, the more time you save. An added benefit is that you won’t be telling people by your actions that you respond instantly to every email you get. If you do, they will expect it. We train people how to treat us by our actions and habits. Control your email and you will go a long way in controlling your time. You will be eliminating a large source of stress and getting out of a reactive mode.

 

Most e-mail messages are not urgent.

Timothy Ferris in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, claims he checks his email no more than once per week. He insists that any lost orders or other problems are overshadowed by his gain in efficiency. Personally, I wouldn’t go to this extreme. But two or three times a day does not seem unreasonable.

To Do lists

Don’t let prayer be the last thing on your To Do list.

 

On the sillier side …..

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iPhone that never rings, telemarketers who never call, and co-workers wo never interrupt.

 

 

 

 

 

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