I think I found a new work process. I’ve discovered how much I can actually get done when I don’t respond to email. This is not to say that I ignored email completely, but that it was low on the priority scale.
Of course, this is common advice out there in the world – don’t check your email in the morning, batch process email, respond / delete / file / or save to respond to later, etc. I’ve created boundaries for myself like “no email before 8AM” but I never tried holding something else as the priority.
I wrote out my To Do list for the week – major and minor items. Appointments were already on my schedule. Each day I would pick 1-3 large items to work on / accomplish.
I’d decide how much time one of the “big rocks” would take, mentally set that deadline (if it were 10am and the project would take 2hrs, I’d set a goal to break for lunch at noon) and got to work. Interruptions and other issues came up, but overall, by the end of the day if I didn’t finish something, I’d made significant progress on it.
My emailed stayed open as I worked, and I would respond to anything that seemed “urgent” or “important”. I use quotes because I decided if something was worthy of either of those labels, not the tone of the email.
After 3 days of working this way, I took this afternoon to batch process my email. I was able to knock my inbox down from 67 emails to 10 in 90min. Wham! With a time limit and focused energy, it felt easier than answering email when I’m wiped out or anxious.
The whole thing works on a weekly scale too. Monday I focused on 3 projects and had 2 meetings. Tuesday it was 1 project and 2 meetings. Wednesday was 1 project and 1 meeting. Thursday was 2 projects and no meetings. Friday I’ll tie up the loose ends. I front-loaded my week (when I have more energy) and paid attention to how much meetings would eat up mental focus (I’m an introvert, so the more meetings, the more I just need a nap).
The approach even worked in my personal life. With only a few hours of free time in the evening, there’s usually only room for 1 errand and 1 project. Still, I was super accomplished there too – I ran 3miles Monday and Wednesday, cooked two full dinners, bought groceries, worked on my online classes, organized an address list for my bridal shower, met up with two friends two different nights and finished my registries. I had help from my fiance, for sure, but the end result was a productive, balanced and relaxed week.
Oh, and the 2 hour bubble bath I took on Monday, but that’s a whole other post 😉
We are all striving so much, trying to get more done than there are possibly hours in the day, and for what? Yes, I need to do my job so that I have a successful career and continue to receive an income, but otherwise, it’s just me and my own standards in my head. If an emails receives a response within 3 business days, it’s OK by me. Again, no urgent matters. And the items that really solidify my place at my job became priority and were accomplished with ease. That whole 80/20 rule. Guess we’ll see how next week goes.