Control Your Email Inbox (Review)
Just over a month ago I purchased Control Your Email Inbox, a video on productivity by Lars Pind The video offers a method of dealing with your daily emails that helps you to better manage your time and increase productivity.
I'm a freelance developer and spend most of my working day in front of my computer. On a particularly bad day, I can receive over fifty emails and in the past I would jump to action each time one came through. Needless to say, being regularly distracted from my work meant that even after 10 hours of non-stop computer time, I often felt like I hadn't achieved too much. This year my new year's resolution was to increase my productivity during work hours so I could cut back on the amount of time I actually spend working (8 hours of full concentration > 10 hours of distractions). I decided to give Lars's method a try.
Pre-conceptions about Lars's Method
After watching the video, I had a couple of concerns about this new approach. I was yet to be convinced.
The first thing I was weary of about this method was response time. Previously, my clients had been used to me responding to email pretty much as they were hitting the send button. Now, they would have to wait up to four hours for a response. I was slightly anxious that my newer clients would start to think I was lackluster.
Missing Important Notices
Often I get an email in the morning notifying me of a conference call or meeting to be held later that day. Another concern of mine is that I'd miss these notifications and, again, be branded as a slacker.
It's GMail Specific
Lars demonstrates how he implements his method in Gmail. Although I use Gmail as my mail server, I access my mail through Apple's Mail.app or on my iPhone and did not want to start using browser-based email simply to try out this method.
Findings After One Month
I would strongly recommend this method to anyone who works at a desk/computer and receives a lot of email everyday! Not only have I been able to eliminate more distractions from my work-environment, I'm able to better organise my mail so I know where everything is and where everything should be. As far as my preconceptions go...
I briefly explained to all of my clients that I only check my mail twice a day now. In most cases they seemed surprised and impressed! By explaining to a client that you have a system in place to organise your time and reduce distractions, you're also re-assuring them that you are organised and a diligent worker. If they know they can still call or text you when a fast response is essential then, in my experience, there's not an issue.
Missing Important Notices
Again, I explained to all of my clients that email is not the fastest way to contact me anymore. If you to get a message to me within an hour or so, a text is fine. For me this has not been a problem and my clients, knowing that I'm more strict with organising my time, have actually given me more notification than usual.
It's GMail Specific
This hasn't been an issue at all. By spending some becoming more familiar with the features in GMail I've actually been able to use this method with Mail.app without any problems. Simply configure your mailbox as an IMAP account and apply these settings in Mailbox Behaviours. Now, when you delete mail, it's actually moved to the Gmail > All Mail folder (the same as archiving). The rest of the folders recommended by Lars can be set up and are synced automatically and between each of your computers/devices.
As is the same for probably 499,999,999 others, Facebook has always been a big distraction for me when working. One comment or status can result in 10 more distractions throughout the day. This year I've set up a filter so that ALL mail from Facebook is marked as read and archived before I even check my mail. I never even read it. When I do log in to my Facebook account two or three times a week, I have notifications that alert me to anything that I may have missed... it's never anything important anyway!
This video has already paid for itself with the amount of extra work I get done each day. As Lars explains in the video, it takes time to force yourself into this new habit. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't cheated a little (maybe checking mail on my phone whilst on a train or bus) but I've been pretty disciplined whilst working at my desk which is really what I wanted to achieve.
Once you've employed the system (and probably adapted it a little to suit your own needs), don't be shy about bragging about it to colleagues and clients. If anything, they'll be impressed that you're organising your time more efficiently.