For Managing Email, Make This Surprising Mental Shift

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Managing email requires both the right tools and the right mindset. There’s one deceptively simple idea about email that most people overlook. And because they do, they stay mired in email stress.

Ready? Here it is: Email is real work that takes real time.

Managing email more effectively means treating it like 'real work,' productivity expert Maura Nevel Thomas says.

Managing email more effectively means treating it like ‘real work.’

I talked about this idea in a guest article for the Citrix Interactions Blog. (You may know Citrix as the company that delivers services such as GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar.)

How Email Gets Out of Control

In this article, I explain that you can’t start managing email effectively until you begin leaving some time in your schedule to process it.

Of course, this isn’t how most of us tend to handle email. As I wrote in the Citrix article:

Many people schedule their days heavily and somehow think that they’ll keep on top of email in the brief gaps between meetings and “real work.” Or they multitask by jumping between email and other work, frantically skimming every message as it lands in their inbox, living with the constant fear they will miss something important. As their message count keeps spiraling, email bleeds into their personal time. They try to catch up in line at the supermarket, at the family dinner table or while watching TV.

Working that way has real consequences for your productivity, including:

  • Important emails fall by the wayside.
  • Unprocessed emails weigh on you psychologically and cause stress.
  • Your efficiency suffers.
  • You lose opportunities for quick, restorative breaks when your spare moments are the only time you have for email.

A better way of managing email starts with acknowledging that email is “real work” just like any other task in your day. In other words, you can’t schedule yourself for back-to-back meetings and still expect to stay on top of your email (or, for that matter, get any other proactive work done).

Be sure to read the full Citrix article. In it, I go into more detail on how to make a realistic plan for managing your email. I also invite you to check out some of my other resources on email:

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