An email is a to-do list that someone writes on. In the modern workplace, you can’t escape emails. They have become such a huge productivity drain that people attend courses just to learn how to manage their inbox. When you receive an email, it often comes with a task attached to it. Working on an email task immediately is not always the best response. If you choose to prioritise tasks set for you by someone else, as opposed to tasks you have set for yourself, how will you ensure the important tasks get done. Depending on the nature of the email you receive, you have 3 options for dealing with the task that comes along with it:
If an email task will take two minutes or less to complete, do it immediately. It will take longer to capture that task on your task management system and even longer to block out time for it. For example, if I receive an email from a colleague asking for the latest statistics from the field, it will take me less than a minute to find the relevant data and another minute to share the link with them. Under such circumstances, it doesn’t make sense to leave the task unattended. Do it and carry on with your day.
Capture the task
If the task will take more than two minutes, stopping to do it now will most likely ruin your schedule. When that is the case, open your to-do list and capture the task. Return to it later in the day when you have finished your A-tasks.
Block out time for it
Some tasks are not tasks at all but mini-projects. They will require more than an hour of focused work. When an email contains these type of tasks, consult your calendar to find time you can block out, send a quick reply acknowledging you have received the email and you will work on it by *insert due date.*
Most people are frightened by the idea they will look like they are not doing their job if they don’t respond to emails immediately. From my experience, very few emails actually demand an immediate response. More importantly, you can’t let other people set your daily priorities for you. What might be an A-task for another person might not be an A-task for you.