Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wasting Time

Email, IMs, Facebook, email groups and text messaging have made communicating with friends so much easier and a lot more fun. Yet, if we aren't careful, all of these fabulous staying in touch tools can also be huge time sucks. One of my 2009 goals is to reduce the number of emails I receive and manage those I need more efficiently.

I am currently part of more than 40 Yahoo! groups...almost all are writing related. I'm on digest (which means I get bunches of individual emails combined into one), but I still get at least two dozen digests a day. On another email address, I get notification emails from magazines I subscribe to and stores I've shopped at. I will unsubscribe from most of those...but some I've tried to cancel keep coming back (like trying to get your name off a snail mail catalogue list--can it be done?).

How many times a day do you hop on Facebook or reply to comments/write on walls/tag pictures? How many chatty emails from friends do you answer/how much time do you spend IMing during the workday? Do you stop working on a project to IM? All these things take you out of "the zone" and reduce productivity.

I challenge you to add up all the time you spend on email on a given day. Then look at how much time you had to spend, for example on work emails or urgent matters, compared to how much time you chose to spend on casual blah blah blah, no matter how fun that might be.

The lure of emails is often difficult to resist. What can we do to take control?


--Instead of constantly monitoring your emails and responding haphazardly throughout the work day, set specific times to answer them, such as a half hour at lunch. Set a timer.
--Set up a separate email address for friends and another for Facebook/MySpace, so that you aren't distracted when you need to look at your business emails.
--Turn OFF IM while working.
--Turn OFF the incoming email sound on your PC. And your BlackBerry/phone.
--Decide to stop the chain and not reply to every reply with another cute joke or "Thanks" or "Talk to you soon."
--Ask friends NOT to send you links to videos etc. Or if you can't NOT look at every single thing a friend sends you, make sure to set a time limit.
--DO find an efficient way to organize your emails so you can easily revisit those you need.
--Do an end of the year cleanup and remove yourself from all lists, groups, store emails that you don't REALLY need.

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