Just like most food truck vendors, I consistently deal with email management problems. On most days, I am deluged with high volumes of email. When I get to the office in the morning and check my computer, I typically have at least a hundred email messages waiting for me. Every day I take a deep breath and get started in on them. This task can usually take me two to three hours throughout the day to fully empty these messages from my inbox.
The problem is, that I don’t knock out these messages in bulk. What this does is that I seem to use email to distract myself through out my already busy day. Whenever I feel the least bit uneasy, I check my email. Stuck while writing an article? Bored on a phone call? I might as well check email. It’s an easy way to avoid or distract myself from feelings of discomfort.
Overcoming Your Email Management Problem
What makes this issue so compelling is that I continually wonder what’s waiting for me in my inbox? It feels legitimate, I’m working. I need to make sure I don’t miss an important message. But it’s become a serious email management problem. When we don’t control our email, we are controlled by it. Every food truck operator I have spoken with on the topic complains about email overload.
Email pours in, with no break to its flow. This is a good thing, right? Sure it is, but the problem occurs when you check it incessantly. It pulls you away from work, conversations, personal time, etc.
But it’s not just the abundance of email that’s our problem; it’s the inefficiency in how we deal with it.
Keep Your Mailbox Under Control
The solution is, instead of checking email continuously and from multiple devices, schedule specific email time during the day while you are at your computer. All other time needs to be considered to be an email time out.
We are most efficient when we answer email in bulk at our computers. We move faster, can access files when we need them, and link more quickly and easily to other programs like our calendars. Also, when we sit down for the express purpose of working on emails, we have our email heads on. We are more focused, more driven, wasting no time in transition from one activity to another.
I now bulk process my email three times a day in 30-minute increments, once in the morning, once mid-day, and once before shutting down my computer for the day. I use a timer and when it beeps, I close my email program.
Outside my designated email times I don’t access my email. I no longer use my phone for email unless I’m away from my computer all day. When the urge to check arises I take a deep breath and feel whatever feelings come up. And then I focus on whatever I’m doing.
Here’s what I’ve found: I don’t miss it.
Proper Email Management Will Make You More Productive
I am focused on what’s around me in the moment, without distraction. I’m more productive, more creative, and happier. I’m also going through my email faster and with more attention than before. I don’t make mistakes like copying the wrong person or sending an email before finishing it. So I’m also more efficient.
But what if someone needs an immediate response?
Worrying about that is precisely the kind of misguided rationalization that reinforces our email problem. In the off chance that someone needs my response within minutes, they’ll find another way to reach me, either by texting or calling.
The Bottom Line
My email management problem is no longer an overwhelming burden to me. I’m spending an hour and a half a day on it, which for me is the right amount. As a food truck operator, you may need more or less time per day. Experiment and then schedule the appropriate time slots. The hardest part is resisting the email addiction is checking your email during off hours. My advice?
Take a deep breath and relax. For that brief moment in the middle of a hectic workday, it just might feel like you’re on vacation.