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Break the web of distraction
It's hard to remember what life was like before we could download hundreds of pics of Johnny Depp at our desks. Add stuffed inboxes to the mix and it's a storm of misspent hours. But as Alessandro sees it, "just because we can now communicate in a nanosecond doesn't mean we should." It's time to implement new rules, says Wendy Kaufman, president of Balancing Life's Issues, an executive-training company. How to start:
Get off the lists Unsubscribe from any emailed updates, newsletters and press releases that don't pertain to your job.
Tighten your email filter Set your spam blocker to "high".
Create a digital "casual reading" file This is an email filter that, once set, sends all non-spam newsletters to a special file. That way, the intriguing headlines of your email subscriptions won't distract you throughout the day, says Alessandro, even though you'll still be able to see that you have unread mail. Once a week, on legit breaks, read them. To take care of this using Outlook, go to the Rules/Alerts section of Tools and create a folder called "Casual Reading", then check the box called "Move mail for someone to a folder".
Send less to receive less "The average person spends three months per year processing email," says productivity expert Karen Cynowa. Yikes. Part of the reason you get so much email is that you send so much - needlessly. Say you're out of the office, on your BlackBerry, and without access to the info someone's just asked you for. Instead of immediately emailing numerous people trying to get it (and triggering a flood of replies in the process), ask the sender for a deadline. Then answer in full after you're back in the office and have the information at hand.
Reply less to receive less There's no need to respond to everything. Your "Thanks" only extends a long email chain.
Limit email checks to three a day If that's too few, Cynowa suggests once an hour. "Advise others that if [an issue] is critical, they should call," says Alessandro.
Turn off sound alerts The seemingly harmless ding of an arriving message actually creates a massive disruption. "It takes up to 64 seconds to recover the pace of your workflow after an email interruption," Cynowa says.
Change your send/receive schedule This dictates how often your system connects to your server to check for and send new messages. The typical default setting is every five minutes. Make yours every 30. "This will save up to 80 interruptions daily," Cynowa says.
D it When it's time to actually answer email, Cynowa says, immediately take some "D" action on each one. "Either do it now, defer it, delegate it or delete it," she says. To keep track of deferred or delegated ones, Cynowa suggests dragging the email into the task folder or the calendar in Outlook so it opens a new appointment or to-do item.
Stop being so chatty Make sure your replies are succinct. "Email is meant for quick messages," Kaufman says. "Cover just the basics of who, what and when."
Photo by Women's Health Nov 10, 2011