How much time do spend in your inbox? Do you check email on your phone, in odd bits of time throughout the day? Is your inbox always open in a browser tab? How much email do you have piling up that you’ve glanced at but not responded to or deleted?
If you have difficulty focusing on your priority projects because you spend much of your day responding to email, one of the best strategies to improve your processing of email and your focus on other things is to limit your handling of email to set times during the day. Batching your email processing allows you to better assess what is truly urgent, what is truly important, and what can be quickly deleted or archived.
Several years ago, I read Tim Ferriss’s post How to Check E-mail Twice a Day, in which he suggested that in addition to retraining your own work habits, you should add an autoresponder to your email that lets people know how frequently you will check email.
The idea behind doing this is that over time, you will retrain people’s expectations, so that they know you probably won’t be responding within the hour. Of course, an autoresponder does add to the other person’s email burden, and I’ve read more than one of Ferriss’s critics complaining about that fact.
Enter Calmbox.me, a low-footprint movement which encourages its followers to:
- check email only once in the morning and once in the evening
- announce this practice in your email signature.
A similar strategy is part of Courteous.ly, which sports the tagline: “if they only knew how much email you have.” This service (which is part of a larger research project by Eric Gilbert, at Georgia Tech) connects to your Gmail account and counts how many messages you receive. It calculates your email load (as high, normal, and light) relative to your inbox, rather than to preset numbers. Users get a personalized courteous.ly link that they can add to their email signature, encouraging their correspondents to click on the link following the phrase “My current email load is.”
Such announcements of one’s email habits seek to raise awareness of how email overload affects us and ultimately improve communication habits by encouraging people to stop and consider how necessary the email they are sending truly is.
Personally speaking, even though I mostly batch my email processing into a few set times per day, I haven’t started announcing my email habits in my signature line. Nor am I likely to, since I don’t see the need to clutter your screen with additional signature lines. But I’m observing this trend with some interest for what it suggests about a general wish for a more peaceful relationship with email.
Would you announce your email habits to every person you email? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!
[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Justin Dolske]