Someone once told me that emails are everyone else’s shit and to be productive, you have to sort out your own shit first.

I liked that comment but I simply could not get my head around not answering emails from clients so I carried on.

My inbox would get pretty mental, with clients and staff sending questions or being CC’d to conversations, it’s pretty easy to sit and do emails all day (I still like to do this if I’m hungover). Email never stops and I’d find myself sending emails at the dinner table most evenings. When I was answering emails on Christmas Day, my wife had a word.

2015 New Year’s Resolution: Cut back email and work from a To-Do list instead.

I found an app called Clear. Clear is a spectacularly simple To-Do list app that syncs across all devices. I got it on iPhone/ iPad and desktop. Then did nothing. (Does anyone else do this?!)

I slipped back into my email.

However. Last month I found a way of working that will change 8 years of a growing bad habit.

In all honesty if it weren’t for the awful syncing of Apple Mail and Gmail, I probably never would have started.

A New Year’s Resolution That Begun in June.

For anyone else that uses a MacBook or iMac and also uses Gmail, you’ll feel my pain. I had to find another email solution that could stop this and actually improve the way I worked.

I remembered downloading Mailbox a while back and after discovering they had a beta version for desktop I was sold. If you haven’t used Mailbox, you’ll struggle at first but persevere until you learn the features. It works like Gmail with conversations as threads but it has some really cool features. The main ones I use are the swipe functionality, auto-archiving conversations and removing me from emails I don’t need to see.

Getting to a zero inbox was pretty tough I used (feels good writing that) to put every single email into a relevant folder. I had folders for everything. Clients, requests, leads, blah blah blah. When I got Mailbox, I just stopped doing it. Guess what? I can still find all my emails and I’ve saved myself seconds per email that added up to a lot of wasted minutes.

I also used to use my inbox as a to-do list by sending myself emails. I’ve since found that this was a big mistake as I’d see emails come in and drop the task I was doing to respond. According to this article by Per Sé Energy on the ABC’s of Time Management, “One hour of concentrated work is usually worth more than two hours of interrupted work of 1015 minute segments”. I was doing this all day!

Combining the two – why I’m more productive.

First improvement to my life: Turn off email notifications – Oooh!! Oh No he didn’t!! Can you imagine it? Would you dare?

Since I started working this way, I’ve not missed one important thing. To email senders, everything is urgent and if everything is urgent, nothing is. What I’ve found is that if something really is urgent, people use this thing called a phone to communicate.

Couple that with all the stuff you would be notified on that you don’t need to be and you’ve got a never-ending “distractification” (Yes -I just made that word up).

Completing a tasks leads to an outcome and completing an email isn’t completing a task.

Therefore, now, I only get notified when I’ve got to work on something from my to-do lists or from “My Clear” as I’m calling it.

Since removing this, I’ve completely changed the way I work. For starters, I’ve created two types of working day:

  1. In (in the office)
  2. Out (out of the office)

In days are for me are for working on strategy for Webtise & MetricsMate, new business, ensuring we’re hitting client goals and having nice lunches.

Out days are for client meetings, events, education, inspiration and having nice lunches.

I now spend around one hour on emails a day in 20 minute slots, in most cases just swiping and forwarding! This allows me to focus on important Clear tasks, focussed client time, improving MetricsMate, going to boxing/ gym (after reading this!)and then ruining it at lunch.

I’ll tell you one thing, I wouldn’t be writing a blog post in an office day a few months back!

I hope my findings help you improve your time management in some way. How do you avoid interruptions and the dreaded email? Please comment below or drop me a tweet via @DClutt.