The email excellence challenge: no mail!Personal productivity has always had my interest. I have read the books by David Allen on “Getting things done” (GTD) and I attended his seminars a couple of times. I have installed many tools to make work life more efficient and hence increase productivity. I have also given workshops on the topic and I am coaching people to help them increase their own personal productivity.

An increased personal productivity does not necessarily mean that you need to do more work. For me the focus is on increasing personal efficiency and effectiveness. This will allow you to get more done in less time. In other words, it will free up time. After all we have only 1440 minutes a day and for most of us a third of that already goes into recharging the battery (aka sleeping).

The trick is to use the other two third most effectively for the things that must be done in order to create maximum amount of available time for the things we like to do (like walking to Santiago de Compostela for instance).

Personal productivity will not always be on a super high level. It goes up and down and as habits wear off you easily fall back into the trap of responding to the things that pop up in favor of the important tasks. It is essential to refresh your habits every now and then to stay on top of the productivity edge. 

Recently I refreshed my habits again and switched back to OmniFocus as my preferred task management program that will help me to stay sane. It is one of my productivity cornerstones next to Evernote, which is my digital conscience. 

Quite often I read new success story from someone being uber-productive. The other night I read Jonny Gibaud’s ebook Work Smart – Get more done. Jonny is a productive guy and understands that being productive also requires easy reading. The 79 pages of his ebook are not spoiled on text, but on effective tips which are clearly clarified with why’s and how-to’s. 

Reading it inspired me to start implementing two elements: an adopted version of his email policy and the time boxing idea of breaking tasks into 25 minute blocks, divided by 5 minute breaks.

Email is an interesting animal in our life. When I talk about communication in my workshops, I always mention that email is not the most productive communication tool at all. It might seem to be productive, but we never know in what state the recipient is reading our message and if he/she is understanding it like we meant it. Better and more effective is to pick up the phone and talk, or if email is the way to go, keep it short and concise.

Email can be very time consuming and as it is not the most productive communication tool it is important to limit the amount of time spent with email in favor of more productive tools and tasks. I decided to start to limit email handling to reading and sending only during one time box a day (yep, that’s 25 minutes). In that time box I will also bring the inbox down to zero. 

It sounds like a challenge and maybe it is. However, I think it is a doable one if you apply GTD-like methodologies and assign the tasks to the right moment and tools. The one time a day email handling can then also only be done by emptying the inbox. Otherwise things will still get stuck and stalled in email again. 

Our business society is quite ingrained in email habits and thus many people expect near instant responses to email. Hence one other thing that needs to be done is to setup an autoresponder in email that will inform people during the initial period of my new, once a day, email handling. 

There is my email excellence challenge: “Email in only one time box a day”, let’s see how it increases productivity.

Are you joining me?