Write this down: “If you’re spending your day sending and receiving email messages, then you’re spending your day responding to other people’s priorities.” Rinse and repeat. What does your typical day look like? Spending all day in your email inbox? Or spending the day working on the projects that matter to you? Sure, email is still a vital communications tool, but our problem is that we get stuck in it. As a result, we end up responding to others, instead of acting on the things that are important to us.
If you get stuck in your inbox, here’s some recommendations:
1) With email – you don’t have to respond to everybody. Immediately delete the cat videos, the lame poems, and endless coupons. Don’t necessarily respond if you were only “cc’d” on the email. And unless it’s specifically work related, don’t necessarily respond if you didn’t ask for the email to begin with.
2) Tap into resources that obsess over productivity like David Allen’s books or the guys over at Asian Efficiency. They may be overkill, but they’ve got some great tips, techniques, and insight on making your goals happen.
3) Invest in a good task manager or to-do list. There are some great ones that operate online or offline. My two favorites are OmniFocus and Things. I’ve used both, but I like Things better because it’s versatile but simple. A simple and free one is Wunderlist. I also recommend my PRINT planner called “The Unique Planner for Creative Professionals.”
4) Once your task manager is in place, re-think your email. Delete emails that are low priority or don’t matter, then process the rest. Respond to the ones that need an immediate response, delay or delegate others, and when you receive emails that represent a task, move them to your task manager.
From that point on, start focusing on your task list instead of your email inbox. After all – the task list is the list of YOUR priorities, and that’s what you need to accomplish to reach your goals.
As much as possible, leave other people’s priorities to them…