Email batching is life changing.
Unless your job is checking and responding to email, none of your customers or stakeholders expect an immediate reply to their correspondence. They do however expect a reply within a few hours to a day.
Determine how long it is reasonable for your customers and stakeholders to expect a reply and check your email within these intervals. Usually this will be between two and three times per day. Develop the habit of never responding to email outside of batching times. Note I say responding, as you develop the habit you’ll still check them, but don’t respond unless absolutely necessary. Keep reminding yourself the quality and efficiency of your work will improve if you fight off the temptation to just reply quickly because you can.
By developing the habit of email batching, we shift our mindset about email management from reactive to proactive.
Why does email batching work?
- You will be more focused when you’re responding to email, giving this task 100per cent of your attention during batching times;
- Each time you batch you will return your inbox to zero. This means you will no longer procrastinate in your inbox;
- You won’t multihandle individual email by trying to work out what you haven’t actioned every time you look at your previously overflowing inbox;
- You’ll meet your deadlines on tasks because you’ll put time aside to action them;
- You’ll communicate your message mindfully, which will cut down on communication errors and misunderstandings; and
- You’ll be more present when interacting with others, during meetings, and when working on high-value tasks as you’re no longer responding to notifications like Pavlov’s dog.
Step 1: Develop your batching strategy
Once you’ve decided how long your clients and stakeholders can wait for replies to the email communication they send you, decide the best times to check and respond to email.
If you always have a lot of email sent to you overnight, you may decide to check them first thing in the morning.
Personally, I prefer not to batch email until I have accomplished at least one high-value task for the day. This allows me to be completely focused on important work without distraction at my most productive time of day.
Your most productive time may be later in the day, or you may have a role which requires you to respond to overnight requests first thing in the morning.
Figure out what best works for you.
Step 2: Set up your calendar and email
- Turn off the email notifications on your computer, tablet and phone.
- Change your settings so your email program always opens to your calendar view; and
- Put times in your diary for email batching. (Usually 30 60 minutes in duration).
In addition to using your calendar to notify you to execute this habit, you may decide to schedule your batching times around your morning coffee and afternoon tea. By using this approach, you build in an effective trigger and reward to this new habit.
Step 3: Start batching
Develop the habit of never responding to email outside of batching times.
As you’re developing this habit, it’s fine to quickly look at email at different times (for instance, to check if something you’ve been waiting on has come through). Just don’t reply to your email between batching times unless it’s absolutely necessary.
During your batching times, you should use your decision-making tree:
Imagine you’re wearing two hats:
- First, wear your processing hat: Process your email using the decision tree and make decisions on whether you need to do something;
- Then, wear your execution hat: Action and respond to the email you need to;
- Respond to anything that will take less than five minutes to answer and can be actioned immediately;
- Create a calendar or task entry for anything that needs more time and attention prior to the deadline; and
- Finally, file or delete all email. When you finish email batching your inbox should have nothing in it.
Let me know how you go!
Cholena Orr xoxo