How it impacts on our working life
When I still had a day job, I often felt nervous opening my inbox, especially if I hadn’t looked at it for a while. There might be something critical from management, a student with a really tricky problem or someone asking for information that was readily available elsewhere.
There was an expectation too from some that we would be attached to our email 24/7 and would always reply by return.
To be fair, my employers had a policy that we would reply within five working days, which is actually quite generous. Now in both my working and personal life I aim to reply within 48 ours to anything important and / or urgent.
A colleague from another institution will only reply to emails received between 9 and 5.
By contrast one colleague I worked with used to send out important emails on a Sunday evening and sometimes they affected meetings the next day.
I’ve heard horror stories of parents haranguing teachers via email at all sorts of times of day and being quite upset if a reply isn’t instant.
A rod for my back?
I still worry a little when it’s time to look at my email and if I open my inbox for some reason I can get sucked into it.
I suppose I’m justified in dreading rejections.
There’s often quite a bit of correspondence from writers I’ve published and some of this does need a pretty speedy reply. Often such emails will cause me quite a bit of work.
Occasionally there’s good or interesting news.
My new strategy
I get up to about 400 emails a day. Obviously I can’t even read them all let alone reply to them. I subscribe to several newsletters but don’t always have time to read them all and sometimes the content is less interesting anyway.
I had been spending several hours a day on email. Now I’m limiting it to no more than one and half hours a day, often less.
So, after I’ve dealt with the day’s CafeLit, I go through my sent folders and file anything that needs to be kept. Then I check spam and move anything that isn’t spam and delete what is.
Next, I spend half an hour reading and dealing with everything that is interesting, important or urgent. Then I spend half an hour on what is important and / or urgent.
After that I just check for emails that are important and urgent that have arrived between 5 p.m. the day before to 5 p.m. that day.
Interesting might be a notification from Classic FM, book recommendations, and political or philosophical discussions.
Important would be notifications form the Society of Authors, SCBWI and ALCS, for example.
Important and urgent for instance would be book orders, edits returned from writers or to me from my own editors, and any news about the rental properties I own.
If I have really busy day and particularly if I’m out in the afternoon, I may only do the last step. This still ensures I’m dealing with my email effectively.
It’s my tool
Now my email inbox serves me and I’m no longer a slave to it. On the days when I sit down to it for an hour and a half, I no longer feel threatened by it. I deal with the awkward ones calmly and allow myself to enjoy the positive ones. I look forward to the interesting ones.