email experiment - my newest experiment at work

In the past, I have shared some of my workplace experiments such as this and this. Here is one more...my newest experiment at work: The email diet!

The topic of emails & how they get out of control & drive us to insanity came up during year end performance reviews. I strongly believe that our workdays should flow based on some pre-determined, clearly defined priorities an not get pulled into 100 different directions by the 100s of emails coming our way. As I was lecturing on how one should not let the emails dictate the flow of our work day, this idea came to my mind. I decided to give it a try, have been implementing it for over a month now & am loving it! This diet has indeed made a noticeable difference to my workdays.

The experiment: my email diet

I have designated 1hr in the AM & 1 full hr in the PM for sending emails. I do not send emails outside of those 2 windows.

more details how this has been working:
  • I do look at emails as they come in. In some cases, I even jot down points, but I do not respond. I send out emails only during those two 1hr windows.
  • I have 2 separate windows instead of one mainly because I engage with a lot of folks in EMEA & I use my AM window to be able to send out information when they are around. The PM window is mainly for more strategic, detailed emails.
  • I can send as many emails as I want as long as they are done during these 2 time slots.
  • I did not make a big announcement about my plan but I did discuss this with those I work closely with.
  • I typically block those hours in my calendar.
  • If for some reason I have something really urgent that needs to be addressed right away, then my timer starts at that point. For example, say I had blocked 10-11AM as my email window and something super urgent requires my response at 9AM then I shift my email hour to the 9-10AM window.
  • If I have to address something outside of my email window, I simply pick up the phone or walk up to a person for a face to face conversation.

And here are my reasons for embarking on this experiment:
  1. I have come to hate how sending emails have come to define most of the "work" we do.
  2. As mentioned at the outset, I want my work day, work week to be dictated by well-defined, pre-determined priorities.
  3. As most of our time goes to responding to queries, not much time gets spent on more strategic, planful activities.
  4. Very often, people don't fully read emails but respond with half-understanding causing much confusion & frenzy. And I do not want to feed this frenzy.
  5. Finally, this self-imposed restriction forces me to have more face-to-face conversations. This needless to say has a lot of tangible & intangible benefits.

I have tried this diet for over a month. Although a month is a really short time, I already feel the difference this has made to my workday. I would definitely encourage others to try if they can.

1 comment:

  1. Nice and valid points.

    Regarding bullet point 6 under the title "more details how this has been working:", i am a little skeptical if you need to shift the entire time window for your email. If an action is needed immediately, no doubt you'll have to respond on the spot. But then you can continue your work and get into emails during your usual 10-11 AM. This way your email timings wont keep changing and you shall be systematic. Just a little thought.