I recently read that a common mistake that business people make is to read their emails first thing in the morning. The article suggested that you read them right before lunch after you’ve had a chance to be “productive,” and are motivated to tackle them so you can move on to lunch. I like this idea, and would implement the suggestion if only I weren’t a teacher.
A teacher has two professional fronts to contend with: preparation and execution. Preparation is the opportunity to ensure you are ready for the latter, execution, when students are in front of you. The only opportunity I get to read my emails is before my students arrive. I make it a policy to respond within 24 hours. This means I fall into the trap of getting tied up with answering emails, sometimes at the loss of my prep time.
A colleague shared with me how she gets through her emails quickly and keeps her inbox small. Without a fancy name, let’s call it the Three Ds: Do; Delegate; Delete. You must do one of these three things as you weed through your emails each morning.
DO: If there is a task to be completed, do it.
DELEGATE: If you’re unable to do it, delegate it.
DELETE: If it’s unimportant, or if you’ve done one of the two previous things, delete it.
It’s supposed to be that simple. Well, I tried it today, after being away last week. I had 133 new emails in my inbox. Here’s the breakdown of how I handled all 133:
DO: 6. I was able to complete whatever task was required of those six emails (mostly responding to the sender with an answer).
DELEGATE: 3. I was able to forward three emails to a more appropriate party who could handle the task.
DELETE: 119. Yes, folks, I received 119 emails over the course of a week that were able to be deleted immediately, without any further response or task completion. Now I really know how much time is wasted by reading emails!
If you were just that curious, you may have noticed that 119 + 6 + 3 does not equal 133. I added a fourth D: DELAY. It really goes against the rules of the Three Ds, but there are some things I couldn’t handle from home on the Sunday of my return. But I can go back to school tomorrow knowing I have a mere five emails lingering from last week.
I just wish it didn’t mean that I had to use my Sunday to get there!
How about you? Do you have any suggestions on how to get through the multitude of emails we get every day?