Do not check work email outside of business hours

email after hours

Do not check work email outside of business hours

If you work in a job where you have to be contactable outside of business hours because if something happens you can actually do something to make it better then stop reading now.

Otherwise, for the other 99% of us, let me relate a personal story.

A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally checked my email after work hours. I don’t know why I did it. It was a relapse.

There was only one email there and it was a customer with something that could be interpreted as “bad news”. My heart rate went up and I felt really worried about the bad news. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything, except forward the email to a colleague. The work required to identify whether the email was “bad news” couldn’t be done until I was in the office the next morning.

Went to bed late, woke up at 2. Didn’t get back to sleep until 6. 

The next morning my colleague and I decided it wasn’t bad news. We worked for a couple of hours and established the bad news was not bad news. Everything was ok. But now I was just tired…

Fast forward to that night. Because I am a slow learner I checked my email again. And guess what? “Bad news” from a supplier about the same customer as the night before. Email colleague, stress, go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night, get two hours sleep. 

Next morning – it’s ok. The “bad news” was just my misinterpretation of the data. 

I’m still trying to catch up on the 8 hours sleep I missed.

Do not, ever, check your email outside of business hours.

If you cannot do anything about the content of an email then don’t read it.

When you check work email outside of business hours you risk causing yourself stress at a time when you can not doing anything to alleviate it.

Let’s work through the typical excuses for checking email outside of business hours:

It might be important. Yes, it might be. But if you can’t do anything about it until business hours you’re just increasing your stress levels.

I am important. The more important you are, the more important it is that you are performing at your optimum level at work. Reading business emails, when there’s nothing you can do until business hours, has the potential to cause stress and anxiety. Use your time away from work to relax, recharge and get ready to face the working day.

It might be urgent. Email is not for urgent situations. If you have a mobile phone, make it known you will answer it. In an urgent situation, take the call and deal with the situation.

Checking work email after hours is often something people do in their idle moments whilst itching their phones. My ongoing temptation to check work email is one reason why I no longer access email on my phone. There is a feeling that simply by reading email we are somehow working. By reading an email we are doing something.

For most of us, this isn’t true. We are reading email and by doing so have completed the task of reading email.

In my day job, business is pretty much contained in 9-5. Mostly. I check email at 12 and at 4 daily and an email autoresponder lets people know this and advises they call me when urgent. I ripped this idea from the four-hour workweek and more information can be found here.

I’ve found that this removes the expectation from co-workers, suppliers and customers that I will be checking my email outside of business hours.

After deleting my mail from my phone, setting my iPad to “fetch” instead of “push” I have found that it actually requires me to consciously and deliberately check my email. This creates a big enough psychological gap for me to be able to stop and think “no!”.

My evenings and weekends are a little bit more relaxed. I am mentally and physically present with my friends and family, and my work hasn’t suffered.

If you’re keen to try it, let me know how it goes.

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Email is in your inbox – FAD it

My "work" inbox, Friday just after lunch
My “work” inbox, Friday just after lunch

FAD

File, Act or Defer.

Take no prisoners, get that email moving now.

File – Move it to Archive (Read, Done, a shoebox)
Act – (this is good only if it is 1-2 minutes of work required) – then move it to Archive.
Defer – either flag it for follow up at a specific day and time, create a task, or set a calendar reminder – then move it to Archive.
Do not, ever, leave mail in your inbox!
For more inbox tips, I offer coaching on coach.me. Use code MARSHALLWEEK to get a free week.

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Agree, disagree? Comments are welcome.

Do not check your email all the time

 

Checking your email constantly is exactly the same as hanging a sign around your neck stating “Please, everyone in the world, tell me what to do”.

 

This step is harder and if you’ve been in business for more than a couple of weeks then you know the feeling of having to check your email. We think that there might be something urgent such as our most important client wanting to place an extraordinary order or our boss desperately needing us to recheck the Penske figures.

 

But let’s face it. These sort of critically urgent hyper-important emails are rare. You might get one in your career, maybe even one a year.

 

But not at 10pm on a Saturday night. Not while you’re waiting for your kung-pao chicken in the food court on a Monday afternoon. Not while you’re in a meeting with your most important client or with your boss.

 

Constantly, compulsively checking email isn’t just a psychiatric disorder, it’s something many of us suffer  from when in the presence of co-workers, friends and family on a daily basis. It’s not good for anyone. It’s rude and it is not necessary.

 

It is not necessary to check your email constantly. Email is not oxygen and you can live without reading it for a period of time. You know this is true because you’ve been on an aeroplane, in a movie theatre or at a wedding or a funeral. You didn’t check your email during those times and you are still alive and capable of reading it later..

 

When you send an email, stop waiting for a response. You don’t know if the intended recipient has his email handy. You don’t know if he or she is in the air, in a wedding or surfing 500 metres off shore. By the same token, the person who just sent you the email doesn’t know what you’re doing either.

 

Send the email and move on to something else.

Make email work for you

 

My "work" inbox, Friday just after lunch
My “work” inbox, Friday just after lunch

 

Things email is good for

 

  • sharing information with anyone – everyone has email
  • covering your backside
  • following up on conversations
  • clarification
  • commitment
  • moving documents from one location to another
  • passive aggressive communication
  • pretending you’ve done something
  • reaching people who don’t respond to other methods of communication
  • showing your boss you’ve done something
  • tracking communication
  • receiving information without requiring apps or special software

 

 

Things email is not good for

 

  • urgent communication
  • group conversations
  • to do lists
  • productivity
  • peace of mind
  • getting things done

 

 

Email (literally “electronic mail”) is brilliant. Many modern businesses could not function without it. The ability to reach pretty much anyone in the world, at any time, from almost any sort of device, is an astonishing technological feat and has made many things we take for granted possible.

 

Email is ubiquitous. It is difficult to find someone who has a connection to the internet who does not have an email address. Many people have at least 2; a “work” email and a “personal” email, although the lines are often blurred.

 

Sensationally, email can be free. Use any connected device, go to google or yahoo or Microsoft or thousands of other sites and sign up for free email, often with gigabytes of potential storage. Did anyone else have an @beer.com email address?

 

For many people email has become a burden. Overladen inboxes full of head office missives, group emails, multiple cc’s and email threads hundreds of messages long has created stress, caused people to lose focus on what is really important and sucks literally millions of hours a day from worldwide productivity.

 

Instead of email being a worthwhile business and lifestyle tool, it has become a task in itself. “Checking my email” is now a thing people do instead of other things. Checking email can happen at the dinner table, at the traffic lights and even when driving the car.

 

Email does not have to be a bad thing. Email does not have to run your life. It can be used for good and can work for you instead of you working for email.

 

We’re going to cover some key areas here. Implementing all will give you full control. Implementing some will be beneficial. Even for you to think differently about how and when you use email will help you.

 

Key areas of focus:

 

  • Check email when you want to, not when the machine tells you to
  • When should you send email?
  • When should you reply to email?
  • What emails should be replied to?
  • Folders and email filing.
  • Inbox rules.
  • Auto responders.
  • Training others to use email better.
  • Optional tools.

 

Before I move on. I know many who read this are thinking “but I’m different” and you’re right. Everyone’s unique but the problems we face are common. Not everything I talk about will work for you, but most of it will. Even if you only save 15 minutes a day, reduce your stress level by a little bit or just increase your clarity and focus, these are worthwhile achievements.

Make email work for you – Step 1

Check email when you want to, not when the machine tells you.

 

Email programs are magical distractors. You are sitting working on the most important thing in the world and an alert sounds and a message pops up right in the middle of the screen:

 

“YOU’VE GOT MAIL”

 

You click on the message and your email program opens up. Read the email, think about it and reply all with a quick response. You then notice there’s a couple more emails and you’d better check them as well. When you’ve finished replying to them, there’s been two responses to the email that triggered the alert in the first place and you’d better respond to those as well.

 

Ok, all done. Now back to the most important thing in the world. Elapsed time:

 

Anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes!

 

Were you wrong? Was the thing you were working on not the most important thing in the world? Did the people who sent you emails know more about your priorities than you do?

 

No. Let’s assume for the sake of this story that you are pretty smart person and have a fair handle on your own priorities. It was the email alert that changed your workflow, took you away from what was important, distracted you.

 

Email alerts were great when you received one or two emails a day. Email alerts are not great when you receive emails every hour.

 

So step 1:

 

TURN OFF ALL EMAIL ALERTS ON EVERY DEVICE

 

Yes, including your phone. Turn off all alerts, all notifications and sounds and pop ups and even the little envelope icons appearing in the task bar.

 

Every email app or program has an option to switch off alerts. If you don’t know how, type “turn off email alerts in <program or device>” into your search engine. Read the instructions and do it.

 

In fact, do that now. I’ll wait.

 

Ok, so now you’ve got a little bit of control. Next time you are working on anything, email will continue to flow into your inbox but you’ll still be working on what you want to be working on. You’ve got control and you’ve set your own priorities.

Step 1 is a pretty simple step. It’s good to have little wins.

Do not check work email outside of business hours

Originally published on my personal blog – unfill

If you work in a job where you have to be contactable outside of business hours because, if something happens you can actually do something to make it better then stop reading now.

Otherwise, for the other 99% of us, let me relate a personal story.

A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally checked my email after work hours. I don’t know why I did it. It was a relapse.

There was only one email there and it was from a customer with something that could be interpreted as “bad news”. My heart rate went up and I felt really worried about the bad news. Unfortunately I couldn’t do anything, except forward the email to a colleague. The work required to identify whether the email was “bad news” couldn’t be done until I was in the office the next morning.

Went to bed late, woke up at 2. Didn’t get back to sleep until 6. 

The next morning my colleague and I decided it wasn’t bad news. We worked for a couple of hours and established the bad news was not bad news. Everything was ok. But now I was just tired…

Fast forward to that night. Because I am a slow learner I checked my email again. And guess what? “Bad news” from a supplier about the same customer as the night before. Email colleague, stress, go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night, get two hours sleep. 

Next morning – it’s ok. The “bad news” was just my misinterpretation of the data. 

I’m still trying to catch up on the 8 hours sleep I missed.

Do not, ever, check your email outside of business hours.

If you cannot do anything about the content of an email then don’t read it.

When you check work email outside of business hours you risk causing yourself stress at a time when you can not doing anything to alleviate it.

Let’s work through the typical excuses for checking email outside of business hours:

It might be important. Yes, it might be. But if you can’t do anything about it until business hours you’re just increasing your stress levels.

I am important. The more important you are, the more important it is that you are performing at your optimum level at work. Reading business emails, when there’s nothing you can do until business hours, has the potential to cause stress and anxiety. Use your time away from work to relax, recharge and get ready to face the working day.

It might be urgent. Email is not for urgent situations. If you have a mobile phone, make it known you will answer it. In an urgent situation, take the call and deal with the situation.

Checking work email after hours is often something people do in their idle moments whilst itching their phones. My ongoing temptation to check work email is one reason why I no longer access email on my phone. There is a feeling that simply by reading email we are somehow working. By reading an email we are doing something.

For most of us, this isn’t true. We are reading email and by doing so have completed the task of reading email.

In my day job business is pretty much contained in 9-5. Mostly. I check email at 12 and at 4 daily and an email autoresponder lets people know this and advises they call me when urgent. I ripped this idea from the four hour workweek and more information can be found here.

I’ve found that this removes the expectation from co-workers, suppliers and customers that I will be checking my email outside of business hours.

After deleting my mail from my phone, setting my iPad to “fetch” instead of “push” I have found that it actually requires me to consciously and deliberately check my email. This creates a big enough psychological gap for me to be able to stop and think “no!”.

My evenings and weekends are a little bit more relaxed. I am mentally and physically present with my friends and family, and my work hasn’t suffered.

If you’re keen to try it, let me know how it goes.