The Mindful Manager: Simplifying Your Email Routine

There are a lot of books about work. Unless you truly love your job, and you love doing your job for 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week, with all of your wonderful co-workers and deadlines, for the rest of your existence, you can stop reading this post right now.

If you are like me, and enjoy your job, however are tired of your job consuming you (which includes emails/texts/calls to your cell phone when you are asleep at 3am), I’m going to offer a few tidbits on how I lessened my own workload while keeping the same job and still maintaining my salary.

As a reference, I currently work in the IT field as a corporate operations director. Fancy terminology for being everyone’s boss. And when you manage a lot of people in a company that runs 7 days a week, all year long, the job can get very life consuming.

At first, I was only going to do one post about this topic of simplifying your job. However then as I started to write it, I realised there’s actually a lot of little things we can do to help lessen the workload. So I’m creating a new series that’s specifically focused on my tips for simplified work.

Why is decreasing your workload important? Well, if you are currently like the past-me, and have 70-80 hour workweeks, on the clock for 7 days a week, then you can relate to the importance of getting your life back. Even if you put in your 40-hour/5-day workweeks, yet are still working at home when you’re “suppose” to be off, then I hope you see the importance in getting your life back. You’re not getting younger, and your kids are getting older.

Please keep in mind that since I don’t know your personal work situation or job responsibilities, it’s hard for me to write a post that will pertain to everyone, so I encourage you to post a comment if you have any questions!

We will start with the idea of email being evil, and why + how we can get it under control. Even focusing on changing this one aspect can help to greatly improve your effort in simplifying your work life, creating more free time to do other enjoyable things on a daily basis.

Here’s what I learned along the way.

1) Email Checking as an Emotional Urge

Do you feel the emotional urge to check your email every 5 minutes? Do you feel like you’re going to miss out on an important message if you’re not checking your email frequently? If you answered yes to either question, then I deem you an Email-Aholic. Yes, you are addicted to email. Even worse is if you are addicted to your work email.

And I’m here to tell you that email can be one of the biggest time wasters in your job, which keeps you from doing real high priority tasks that are actually your responsibility to finish. Sure, email is important in many workplaces as a form of communication. However if you have a feeling of disconnection if you aren’t on top of your email, or you have urges to check your email literally every few minutes of the day, then you are most likely missing out on free time that you could have to do other enjoyable things than emailing your life away.

And it’s also worth point out at this stage that if your inbox is literally flooded with emails, then it’s time to re-evaluate your job and your actual responsibilities, because over-abundant email is a sign of someone else not doing their own work.

2) Do Not Put Your Work Email on Your Phone

This is probably going against many of your beliefs about how you should be working. If you are not mandated or contractually obligated to put your work email onto your phone, don’t do it. The key here is your assumed availability, meaning how others perceive your work availability.

Email is a very passive and lazy form of communication, so if you are replying to emails at the dinner table, at the gym, at 7 a.m. when you wake up, while you’re in the shower, etc., then that tells the rest of the world that you are available 24/7/365 for you to give them what they want (even to solve their problems that you are not responsible for).

The more available you are, the more emails will come in that have almost nothing to do with your own responsibilities. Then others get lazy, and start pawning their work onto you. Yeah, I’ve been there. My experience was to the point that I had employees who worked under me start emailing me at 10 p.m. because they couldn’t figure out how to restart their computer. It’s called a Google Search.

3) Only Reply to Emails at the Work Place

This goes with the point above, where you need to be conscious of your assumed availability. If you are only replying to emails during work hours, then those that send you emails will assume that those are your work hours, and no more. I advise you to set up your work email on your office computer, and try to do all email correspondences from that computer only.

4) Check Email Less Frequently

Again, going with the idea of assumed availability, where the slower you reply to emails, the more that other people will think that you’re not available for them in hand and foot. This helps eliminate the back and forth that can get extremely time consuming.

If your replies are a few hours after the original email landed in your inbox, the less on-demand you seem, and the less likely that others will abuse their emailing privileges. If you must check emails periodically throughout the day, even while at home, I suggest designating certain times each day for email checking. Mine are when I wake up, at 10:30 a.m., at 1 p.m., at 4 p.m., then at 9:30 p.m. before bed.

That equals to my email being checked 5 times per day. I check my emails on my phone so that unimportant emails don’t even get a reply. If it’s important enough, I’ll then go to my computer to type a response. Since I’m obligated to be on the clock 24/7/365, which includes nights and weekends, I had to figure out a reasonable plan for emails even while I’m at home/movies/dinner/grocery shopping/gym etc.

5) Don’t Allow Push Emails on your Phone

If you’re trying to check your email on your phone (or even computer) less frequently, don’t allow your email to automatically push to your inbox as the emails are being sent. Instead, choose to manually push your email (which is located in the Settings of your email program).

For a while, I was manually pushing my emails on my phone because I would get tempted to check my email if it was automatically pushing every second. After a few months of this, and my email checking urges subsided, I allowed for automatic pushing, just so that when I did check my email, it would already be loaded in the inbox.

You don’t have to sacrifice work quality for an enjoyable life. While some careers will be more time consuming or committing than others, taking the time to do other things you enjoy will make for a healthier and happier life in the long run.

I hope this post inspires you to analyse your work situation if you are the least bit unhappy with it. Since many of us will work for the majority of our life, it’s only fair to level the playing field a little.

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