Establishing Email Rules

I have noticed recently that people either establish rules for themselves for how they deal with email, or they follow someone else’s rules (like their employer’s), or they have no rules.

Have you ever received an email from someone, and then received another email within the hour asking why you haven’t responded to the first? And another, and another?

In my work, I am usually out of my office most of the time. So my rules for myself include checking my email only twice a day – once in the morning, and again at the end of the day. And, I don’t carry any kind of mobile email device. If people need to reach me quickly, they have my cell phone number and can leave me a voicemail (which gets checked far more frequently than email).

I heard Tim Ferriss say recently (on his blog) that we need to stop treating our email as if it were instant messaging. That comment really struck me – and I could see the extent to which it was true. And most of the people I know who were relating to their email that way are the same ones who often say how busy they are all the time, and yet never seem to be able to get anything done.

Here’s an experiment – see if you can deal with your email twice a day this week, rather than reading each one as it comes in. For those of you with electronic email devices (Blackberrys, Trios, etc.) this may mean turning off the sound or vibration notifier.

The world will not come to an end. And, you might be able to get something done…


Establishing Protocols – Why Bother?

One thing I find interesting in my research is the extent to which very successful people have established protocols for how they handle things.

For example, one organization may have a protocol that all routine emails are answered within one week, while another company may have a protocol that all emails receive a response within 24 or 48 hours. Or, this executive only checks email once or twice a day, and has set up an autoresponder letting people know that.

So, you could be working in an environment with some already-established protocols. But it is just as likely (especially if you are a relatively new entrepreneur) that you are operating without having established protocols for yourself.

What happens when you don’t have your own procedures established? You tend to spend a lot of time dealing with things as they come in throughout the day – allowing yourself to be interrupted every time you see new email come in, or every time the phone rings.

I just heard Tim Ferriss say ‘stop treating email as if it were IM’ – and I was struck by how often we do exactly that!

In the same interview he also said that the tools you choose to use to leverage your time should be for your own convenience, not the convenience of anyone else.

What would your protocols be if you were setting them up to leverage your time and if you were setting them up for your convenience?