How To Spend Less Time In Email

It’s Friday evening, as I close down my computer and prepare to hit traffic, I realize this is the first time in months that I have completed my important tasks on time. This week I avoided getting sucked into my inbox. I do not have that lingering feeling that I might have missed an important email.

Quick check technique is working for me.

Previously I was spending around 3-4 hours processing email inbox, now with quick check, I have reduce it a mere 20 minutes and more importantly I feel that I have accomplished much more by the end of the day.

But before I tell you about that let’s get one thing straight.

We spend way too much time in email!

Emails are the most common distractions. Every time you hear that ding of a new email you instantly feel the adrenaline kick in and course through your veins. Do you that any distraction takes as long as 23 minutes to get back?

Once email client is opened, we are exposed to multiple emails. We will be lost and mindlessly looking at unrelated emails. Sometimes forgetting why we are in email client (instead of doing the important thing that we are supposed to do). The inbox is sucker for our cognition.

I bet you justify this because email is work right? Wrong! Even so its not done properly.

32% of the participants in their study ignored email completely while under a deadline, whereas 43% of the subjects continued to check their Inbox regardless of more important tasks.

Did you know that 36% of the important email is never read !

Additionally, it takes 33% more time to complete a task because of email.

33% of entrepreneurs agree email is the biggest time strain on their business.

When I discovered these facts I thought to myself, “Vamsi, what if I could increase my productivity and get control of my inbox by spending less time in it?” So I developed a plan, tried it out and guess what it worked! I call this Quick Check Technique.


Quick Check Technique

Everybody agrees that you need to minimize the number of times you check your email. Using ‘Quick Check’ technique its easy to do. Additionally, It is shown that the duration to time spent on email is associated with stress. So its not just number to times you check the email, you need to reduce the total time spent on email as well to reduce stress.

What this does is it opens you email client at a schedule and closes it automatically after few minutes.

My Setup :

  1. It’s simple, I have quick check set for 5 minutes every two hours. I like to compare this to catching a bus.If you wake in the morning and you only have 5 minutes to catch a bus, You focus on the main things to get ready and catch the bus and ignore all the rest. The same applies when you know your inbox is open only for few minutes, it forces you to find and focus on the important emails.
  2. What this also does is that it forces you to have an efficient way to find the important mails (using filters and other mechanism). Outlook (my email client) opens up every two hours once and closes automatically in 5 minutes. This forces me to focus on the thing infant of me.
  3. It’s automatic, I do not need to remind myself. This frees up my mental energy to do important things.

Quick check system can be applied to any email client and operating system. Quick check is spread across the working hours, that way I do not lose important email. Quick check forces to have a system for email organization.


How To Use It

  1. Know Current Usage: Use rescuetime to measure the current time spent on the email inbox. The initial measurement is good to know so that you can compare how much time you is spent on your email client.
  2. Half  Email Usage: Divide the time by 8 and note down the number. That is the time you will spend for 4 times in a work day that is once in every two hours (assuming 8 hours a day). Tweak this as you work with it. 
  3. Steps:
    1. Locate the outlook.exe its under one of the following directories depending on the outlook version.
      • C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office##
      • C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office ##\root\Office##
      • C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office##
    2. Create a new file with these contents and name it as mail.bat, with outlook location point to Outlook installed.
      • run “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15\outlook.exe”
      • sleep 300
      • taskkill /T /IM “outlook.exe”
    3. 300 is the number of seconds for 5 mins, you want 10 mins then make it 600.
    4. Create a schedule task and make the location of mail.bat as the program to run.
    5. Action tab should look like this Actions
    6. Trigger should look something like this.Triggers
    7. That’s it, now do not open the outlook again. Wait for the automation to kick in and you to get used to it.

This tactic alone has personally helped me to increase my productivity multiple times while making me less stressful.


Conclusion

Your screen is a real estate, any thing you put in there will fight for attention. If an application is not needed keep them closed. Remember the phrase ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, it applies in this context as well. So by making sure that mail box is closed when not in use will avoid any distractions when you are working.

Number of emails sent are ever increasing. Unless we keep email management in check, it will overwhelm us. Quick check technique helped me in putting  email time fixed and limited.

Reduce the time in the email inbox to increase the email and overall productivity. As a side effect reduce stress. 

We could do better use of the saved time.

Give this technique a try and share your results.

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