From the point of view of time management, email is an curse. Email seduces you into spending too much time on insignificant matters. A basic principle of time management is the 80/20 rule: you should spend 80% of your time on the 20% of tasks that are the highest priority. Almost never does reading any email message rank as one of our most important priorities; yet many of us routinely spend anywhere from a quarter to half our time each day reading and answering email.
I’ve been working on ways to apply basic time management principles to email, and here’s the strategy I have come up with so far:–
I check email only after I have outlined my daily task list, and prioritized my tasks for the day. As I check email, I skip reading all email listserves and other optional email; I also skip reading anything that doesn’t need to be read right away. I spend no more than half an hour checking email (well, OK, sometimes I spend 45 minutes). Once a week, I spend a couple of hours going through all the email that has accumulated — at which time, I find I can delete most of it.
I’m still working on my email strategy. If you have thought about email from the point of view of time management, I’d love to know what strategies you have developed for minimizing the time you spend reading inconsequential email.