Forbes magazine has a new round of time management tips in their Career Talk for Women section, though I think their advice is good for busy people across the board. Along with some fairly standard tips, the column has one recommendation that we can get behind: Set aside one hour of your workday for not checking your email. In fact, we'll take it even further.
Think about it. Every day, the inbox grows larger and commands more of your attention. And living in a Twitter-fed world has convinced a lot of people that you should be checking and responding to messages at every possible minute. While it's great for staying updated, it can kill your focus.
The article says to take a one hour break, which it refers to as the "email-free zone." While we think the concept is great, we don't think one hour is even enough! As we've said before, we think you should hold off on checking your email until you have your priorities assessed for the day and you've gotten your most important work done. This might take an hour, or it might take most of your morning.
While it might seem like jumping into a task right from your inbox is responsive and responsible, for most people it's just not the case. You're letting the order you receive information dictate its priority, often at the expense of more important work. Unless you're in an industry where instant response is required, email can wait.
Other tips for bringing sanity to your email? Use filters and batch processing. Keep messages short. Handle each email once. Make sure you're not spending too much of your day on email in general--modern time-tracking software like TimeDoctor is great for this.
Just remember, email is a tool that exists to serve you--not the other way around.