The Secret to Successfully Taming the Email Dragon

Feb 22, 2011

“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness”
Jean de La Bruysre

How many times have you checked your email today? I’m guessing you’re in there constantly. 20 times, 30 times, 50 times? I’d venture to say that 99% of people out there are consistently checking their email. Many are managing their to do list via email. I’ve been there – it’s no fun. Read through this and you can tame the email dragon. It’s simple and you can implement this RIGHT NOW!

Okay, drum roll please…….LOG OUT OF YOUR EMAIL NOW!!! You will be 10 times more productive. I’m not saying you can’t check in every once in a while. I’m in sales/service, so I need to check in quite often. That being said, when I’m checked out, I’m out. Test it. Start with 30 minutes. Move to an hour and see if you can lengthen it even more.

The key to this is setting a timer or an alarm somewhere. I simply do this in my calendar in Lotus Notes.

There are two key steps that I take:

1. Set a reminder to scan your email

I go no longer than 45 minutes b/c of the attention I need to give my clients. A simple scan may take 30 seconds and 90% of the time there’s nothing that can’t wait. Notice the 1st screen shot, where I have the “Scan Email” reminder set for 12:45pm. Once my alarm goes off and I finish the scan, I set a new reminder for 45 minutes later. This leads me to the second step.

2. Set a second reminder to batch process your email

Now, notice the second screen shot. You will see a “Batch Process Email” reminder set for 1:30 pm (45 minutes later). I usually have about 15-20 emails when I’m processing consistently throughout the day (every 90 minutes for batch processing). Most can be deleted, filed or responded to right away (under 2 minutes for the GTD folks). The one’s that no longer need attention will go on my action list or in my action folder for follow up.

So, two simple steps you can implement right now. Give it a try. You’ll be amazed at the results if you can build this into a consistent habit.

Additional Reading:

From GTD Times, by Mike Vardy: Choosing Your Distractions

From 1440:

Are you Game Ready? How to Execute Like a World-Class Athlete

Three Ways to be More Productive

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If you’ve found this post useful, please pass it on to someone you think may benefit from this. Thanks!

As always, comments are encouraged. How do you manage email? Have you ever tried something like this? What works for you?

All the best,


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