There is no doubt that email in the workplace has vastly sped up the flow of communication. Most see this a progress and ability to make decisions and move projects forward faster.

But what is the individual impact of these tools directly on you? Likely depends if you are in the driver’s seat with time management of the technology or if the tools control you.

Let’s start with thinking about the beginning of a work day. People usually know first thing in the morning that there are some action items that need to be completed, progress to make on larger programs, calls and emails to be delivered, etc. How many of you start your day capturing these actions and think about the plan to accomplish them first?

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Does this start to the day sound more familiar?

  1. Wake up.
  2. Login to email.
  3. See 19 new messages.
  4. Start responding to messages during breakfast or on commute.
  5. Immediately focus on 4 new action items that stem from those emails.
  6. Work on those items.
  7. Once in the office, see 14 new email messages and now one new IM message to call someone on another question or priority.
  8. Start working on those emails and priorities.

You see how your day suddenly is not in your control. While it might feel satisfactory in the short term to take care of these emails and keep your inbox relatively manageable, are you making progress on those items that were most important at the beginning of the day?

The key to getting control of your workday and your inbox seems very counterintuitive: You must learn to ignore your inbox until you are ready to deal with it. The best example of this thinking is doing a slight adjustment to the beginning of your workday. Spend the first 30 minutes of your day organizing a list of those “must do” items for the day and creating time in your calendar to get those items done. Once you have a grasp of how to get those things done, then (and only then) should you check your inbox.

We dare you to try this simple experiment tomorrow at work. Then compare your feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day with your original designated action items. If you are staying true to that original schedule, you will feel less stressed and more confident in your ability to make deadlines and finish projects.

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