Email: Servant or Master?


Email does its job well. It facilitates modern communication. It is fast, rich in capability, and easy to use. Almost everyone we know uses email daily.

When we are at its beck and call, however, we are miserable. Our email apps tend to be always on, always pinging. Notifications flash and pop up constantly. Feeling pressure to be responsive, we tackle emails morning, noon, and night. Lacking a system to track our work and know we are always working on the most compelling thing, we use our inbox as an imperfect to do list and let other people’s emails dictate our work.

When we use email (instead of a call or meeting) for anything more than a simple transaction, we potentially harm our ability to lead, sell, or influence.

To remaster email, try these tips:

  • Turn you email off. Shut down Outlook.Turn off your email notifications on your phone, tablet, and desktop.
  • At the start of your day, pick what you are going to get done today, then start doing instead of opening your email and getting drawn into its vortex.
  • Schedule specific times during the day for processing your emails. (Example:  10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm.) Train people to know that you only read email occasionally. Ask them to call or visit instead,
  • When you do process your email, MOD each email item until your inbox is empty. .
  • Use a system (and here and here) to track what you might work on and to always know that you are working on the best thing.
  • If you need to communicate anything complex or which may have some emotion to it, call or meet instead of email. It saves time in the long run.
  • Avoid using cc: and bcc just to “keep others in the loop.”
  • Prefix your email subject lines with common tags to let your recipients know what kind of email you are sending. Examples:
    • [FYI] for non-actionable information
    • [ActReq] for emails containing a request for action of the recipient
    • [Read] for information that needs to be read in preparation for an upcoming meeting

Remember: email is a wonderful servant and an awful master.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Jonathon Narvey via photopin cc

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