So August is over. When you came back from your holiday, relaxed and tanned, to find 600 e-mails waiting for you, you doubtless felt you needed another holiday to cope.
So here’s a thought: delete the lot! Virtually all of them will have resolved while you were away and the urgent ones will call you anyway.
A year ago a small survey we undertook revealed that people receive an average of 58 e-mails per day, of which only 43% are necessary for them to do their job. This means that on average a person who has gone away for a two week holiday can expect to find nearly 600 e-mails waiting for them on their return – unless they take an e-mail device on holiday, being constantly distracted from enjoyment and relaxation.
I recommend letting people know you will be away and that you will delete any emails sent when you are away (using the auto-respond message on your email system). This can annoy some people – if you are worried about it, just quietly implement the policy yourself.
If that’s too drastic, a less risky alternative is to sort all the e-mails you receive by name and only call your boss and people who have sent more than five emails – not to discuss the mails but to ask them ‘What happened while I was away?’ People will call back if their mail was urgent.
My experience of working with people who have taken this measure is that 99% of them are never followed up. The two or three that people do follow up tend to be urgent, so they will call you immediately when you get back from holiday anyway.
Occasionally, you will get it wrong – once or twice a year you will find e-mails you should have responded to and somebody will call you up about it. It has to be worth the risk for the time we all save: unnecessary e-mails gobble up to 10% of all staff time – we have got to take control of them. The average FTSE100 company is paying its staff to write, send, read, store or delete over a quarter of a billion unnecessary e-mails every year. It’s an absolute plague.
So go on: delete your inbox and start afresh after your holiday – you know you want to!
- Find more personal efficiency ideas in Kevan Hall’s book, Speed Lead
- Find out about out our Speed Lead process – training in personal efficiency.
Updated to remove a link to a page that no longer exists, May 2013