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Don't check your email first thing!

When email first came out, it was billed as a time-saver, but now I think most people would agree that it is anything but that.

We all get way too many emails and every person behind each message deserves a response, which takes so much time.

No one would argue that interruptions make us less effective. They make it hard to get anything accomplished. At the end of a day filled with interruptions, you feel terrible and unproductive.

Where interruptions are concerned, email is just about the worst offender there is. The reasons are twofold. First, emails take time to answer. Second, they kill your momentum. It takes time to get back up to speed on the task you were focused on when the email came in.

Though emails are an unavoidable part of our lives in this day and age, we can learn to be more efficient with them. One way to do this is to wait at least an hour after you get to work to answer your emails.

I know this will be hard for many people. Much of the time, it seems we don’t just answer our emails, we answer to them. But I promise, if you adopt this method for two weeks, you will see great results.

Starting the day with your emails puts you in a reactive mode instead of allowing you to be in command of the things you need to accomplish. Conversely, focusing on something that is both urgent and important at the start of the day puts you in a better position to make positive progress toward your goal.

For me, when I start the day answering my emails, the day seems to drag, and I can be almost certain that I will not feel good about how I have spent my time. When I wait to check emails until I am at least an hour into my work, however, it is normally a very good day.

Some other rules of thumb that can help you be more effective and efficient with your emails are as follows:

  • Limit the times you check and answer your emails to two or three times a day – assuming your job allows for this. Being tuned in to your email throughout the day means you will be continuously interrupted.
  • When going through your emails, respond first to those messages that can be dealt with quickly. More involved responses should be addressed when you feel you will have more uninterrupted time.
  • Because we are all inundated, it is helpful to be able to see at a glance what the email is about. When sending email, try to include as much information as possible in the subject line.

Now go out and make sure that you are using email in a manner that helps, not hinders, your progress and adds value to your organization or company.

You can do this!

Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.