Let Your Inbox Go!

Don't be driven by other peoples agenda, your inbox is not your to do list!

Do you constantly have those days where you’re telling yourself to “keep calm and carry on”.

If it was just occasionally one of those days an ordinary affirmation of the will helps me to get through the day. With the advent of email, multi-teams, increased market pressures and the general demand of leading people it sometimes feel like this campaign to stay stoic may last as the long as the original British Government Ministry of Information campaign in World War II did!

Unlike the war, the modern day barrage is coming from the multiple forms of communication we currently have at our desk — Email, chat channels, phones, sms, team platforms, group forms, oh and the actual conversation. In order to manage the incoming demand for communication response and even work management delegation I realised I and my colleagues were using email like we were dealing up cards at a high stake poker game. The second unfortunate realisation was that email was setting my daily agenda. Or rather MY achievements were not being prioritised. I was unproductive in terms of my role and had become a rescuer to other colleagues needs.

It was time to pause. And like all entertaining historical military campaigns I chose to reflect on another British Government Ministry Campaign; Freedom is in peril. Defend it will all you might!

Leading people and managing operations is a multi-tasking, multi-layered accountability from administration to profit margins so you are expected to be diverse in your day and swiftly achieve with agility; however, I was using my inbox as my prioritised agenda. I’d become reactive AND had lost touch with my business leadership objectives. Not because I didn’t have every intention to achieve them, it was because I didn’t have every day habit of prioritising them first.

Like all good infomania addicts, it was actually effortless to do. Every morning and multiple times of the day I’d turn to my ‘dinging’ inbox like a monkey to a banana. Somehow the micro-responses to emails had become my soul source of satisfactory achievements. The consequences clearly caused a reduction in my desired achievements, unnecessary context switching that diminished productivity and my momentum was steered in an unworthy direction.

The cost of emails and context switching is thoroughly documented; my favourite being the drop in peoples IQ by at least 10% when people are interrupted. “you are more likely to have a higher IQ when smoking marijuana than when you are multitasking”were the reports in NewScientist Magazine. Dr Glen Wilson who conducted the thin study with Hewlett Packard equally has some scary stats on the impact of multi-tasking in his 2010 amendment summary; http://www.drglennwilson.com/Infomania_experiment_for_HP.doc Gender, noise levels, and frequency of distractions all impact your productivity and output quality.

My daily experience was evidence enough regardless of any study. I needed to get back to owning my day, leading my teams and generating momentum. I had to stop the inertia. So I stopped emails.

Now, I don’t open my email inbox unless i’ve achieved my essential item of the day. I use to wait an hour; however, I soon found that there was actually rarely anything urgent emailed, instead urgent was flagged or I would receive a text.

I do review emails again after lunch, and at the end of the day. What’s different this time is that i’ll filter my ‘inbox’ to ensure it’s aligned to what I want to be in my ‘outbox’.

The top three things I noticed from taking this pause were;

1. It took a good week to stop checking emails first thing every morning and to transform my routine.

2. My stress levels dramatically dropped because I was more productive and generated more time.

3. The quality of output went back up because I wasn’t being digitally distracted.

I can not recommend it highly enough — Let your inbox go! Remember — Freedom (for you to achieve without distraction) is in peril. Defend it will all you might!