Here’s a question for you. Between this morning and right now, how many times did your computer or phone chime at you to let you know you just got another email?
Chances are, your number is somewhere around a dozen or more.
Many advisors think that keeping those alerts turned on is no big deal. After all, who would want to miss a critical, time-sensitive message? What if a journalist on a deadline wanted to get a quote from you? Or what if a client had an urgent question about his portfolio?
And so, “new message” alerts continue to ping throughout the day. Some of those emails are informative. Others are fun. Many are a complete waste of time. But here’s what unites them all: they kill your productivity.
There are at least two reasons why you should turn off your email notifications right now and never look back.
One, chances are that any given new email is more exciting, interesting, or entertaining than whatever project you are slogging through. And so, your brain welcomes the distraction.
Two, it’s easy to rationalize that one little email won’t hurt your productivity that bad. Besides, taking short breaks is good for you!
Put those two reasons together, and you begin to see that email notifications will conspire with your brain’s natural chemistry, causing you to get distracted dozens of times before lunch. And yes, that one email might be short enough. But the truth is that it will take you a long time to get back into the working groove!
What’s even worse, allowing your email inbox to drive your workflows is a big strategic mistake. It’s a certain path to doing busywork instead of focusing on important projects and deadlines that will move you and your practice forward.
See also: Stop old emails from stealing your awesomeness
Email should be your means of connecting with the world, collaborating with your team, and helping your clients.
To accomplish that, email does not need to generate any reminders, unread badges, or pings. However, it does need to take its place as a tool in your toolbox — not your boss, whip, entertainment, or treat.
So, go into your email settings and turn off notifications. Don’t worry, you won’t forget that you have an email inbox. You don’t need anything to remind you to check your messages periodically!
Now, designate a couple of time slots per day when you will work with your email. That’s right. You won’t scroll through it looking for the most exciting or fun email while skipping over any messages that look hard or boring. Instead, once or twice per day, you will methodically read every email, take (or note) your next action, and move the email out of your inbox.
In my experience, the fear of missing an extremely time-sensitive message is over-rated.
Think about it. How often is an email so important that you absolutely must stop what you are doing and read it immediately?
The truth is that you get many important emails every day. Most of them can wait until you are finished with whatever you are focusing on. If it’s a true emergency, it shouldn’t be in your e-mail at all!
And, if you are worried about missing something time-sensitive, add a couple of email scans to your daily schedule. During a scan, you are simply monitoring your inbox for anything that might demand your immediate attention. And, you guessed it, scans aren’t happening throughout the day whenever you feel like taking a break. These are scheduled interruptions that allow you to get in and out of your inbox quickly — so that you can get back to work.
I leave you with this reminder.
Your attention is even more valuable than your time. Guard it like it’s priceless.
Have you turned off your email notifications? If so, what’s your advice and best practices for those who are on the fence? Sound off in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.
Check out: Podcast Episode 5 | Michael Kitces (pt 1)