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Take Control of Your Inbox

It happens to us all. We have a plan for the day. We check our email first thing and the next thing we know its lunchtime! Sound familiar? Sometimes it feels like our email controls our day. And this can have a big impact on our productivity. To change this you can take control of your Inbox.


It is logical to check email at the start of the day. Our intentions are good. We think, “I’ll just clear my Inbox before I start my planned work so that I will feel more organised”. But of course those emails just keep arriving. And we keep responding. We may clear our Inbox but we may not. And that’s the problem, we don’t have control. Our plan for the day is affected as we end up working on other people’s requests. We are in reactive mode.

Email Interruptions

To take control of your day it helps to close your Email. The arrival of an email compels us to check and respond. But Email notifications also interrupt us when we are working on other tasks. Research shows that it can take up to 25 minutes to regain focus after an interruption. So how much focus time are you losing each day? How much time could you gain by eliminating some interruptions? How will that boost your productivity?

Chose When You Check

It can be hard to work with your email programme closed. To make this work do two things: 1) check frequently so you know what email is arriving and 2) schedule time to processes your emails in batch.

Try to limit your email checks to a set number of times in the day. This is a scary concept for most of us, because we like to be in touch all the time. And maybe your job requires constant contact. So figure out if it is possible to switch out of Email for parts of the day or on certain days.

Then you need to figure out how frequently you need to check your email. Will it be enough to check first thing in the morning, after lunch and near the end of the day?  If not, add in a mid-morning and mid-afternoon check. Most things can wait an hour or two. Think about the time you spend in meetings or on training courses, If you can’t check your mail, the world doesn’t stop.  So try to go 1 or 2 hours without checking , even while you are working at your desk.

This takes a mindset shift and it won’t be possible every day. But on the days you can you will gain uninterrupted time to concentrate on your planned work. This is how you can boost your productivity.

Use a Process

When you check your email you want to move quickly and be decisive.  The first decisions is: does the email require further action or not?

For emails that require no further action, you have 2 options:

  1. Delete it
  2. File it (for reference)

For emails that require further Action, you have 3 options:

  1. Do It (for quick responses – 2 minutes maximum)
  2. Plan it (for a longer response)
  3. Delegate it (if someone else is available and has the skills to do it)

The challenge is not to get caught up in the emails that require long responses when you are just checking. Flag these messages for follow up and schedule time in your calendar to process all your follow-up emails.

Be strategic about when you respond to email. If something is not due until next week, don’t do it this week, use the flag to remind you before the deadline.

Try New Ways

If your email volume is high, start making changes to reduce it. Can you try different approaches for different situations? Do you default to email too frequently? Email is great for sharing facts, figures, group updates and trace-ability. But most emails prompt responses that have to be processed. Would a phone call work better in some situations? Could it help you reach a decisions in one communication?

Encourage others in your team to change too. Can you work collectively to protect your time from email?  Do a brainstorm with your team to come up with other ideas such as using Slack or Trello for internal updates on projects.

Take Control of your Inbox

These tips may not suit everyone’s style or every work place so modify them to suit your own environment. Be productive and act now. Take control of your Inbox and manage your time.

You can read lots more productivity and time management tips on the blog here.

If you would like to book a Productivity and Time Management Webinar, Training session or Coaching programme please contact Moira here.

Written by Productivity Consultant Moira Dunne, founder and director of

(First Published on 15/5/2016)

Moira Dunne