5 Steps To Email Liberation – Carl Rodrigues

Email is not the problem. How you manage it is what’s important.

Here’s 5 steps to email liberation from productivity coach Carl Rodrigues :

1)   Acknowledge the addiction

 'Your IQ will fall 10 points when you field emails, texts and phone calls the way multi-taskers do. You’d be more productive if you were high on marijuana (4 point drop)'.

That's the findings of research from The Institute of Psychiatry at University of London.

Our culture conditions us to look for instant gratification through entertainment, distractions and snacking attention. Receiving email offers a mini-adrenaline hit. Seeking this is often at the expense of the fulfilment that comes from finishing important tasks pushing us towards our visions and strategic goals. 

We are often drawn to the 'quick win' and sometimes use checking email as an avoidance mechanism to the perceived discomfort that comes from challenge, fear of failure or even fear of success.  

Set Hour blocks of work uninterrupted by email – define what you want done by the end of that hour and do whatever it takes. Reward yourself at the end of the hour. Allocate set times when your phone/alerts/interruptions are off, and stop checking for new messages.

2)   Disengage            

So many people associate being productive with being quick at responding to emails. This usually bears little relation to its level of importance, but rather collusion in a collective agreement that prioritises a false definition of productivity over getting results, blaming workload for anything less than spectacular results.

It takes courage to go against the grain and let go of the fear of what other people will think of you when you take longer to reply to their emails. 

Be clear about your vision/strategic goals and use them to assess which emails contribute to their achievement. Use time when your energy is lower to action those emails that do not contribute to your core vision.

3)   Overcome procrastination on completing challenging emails

Some emails need creative thinking. Perfectionism can mean that the rational mind looking for pleasure will often focus on getting lots of to-do list items cleared at the expense of the important task. Unexpected interruptions are also often added to the list of excuses.  

Set yourself the smaller task of writing a very rough initial draft in a defined relatively short time frame and do it sooner rather than later. Use Parkinson’s Law that states that we fill the amount of time we give ourselves to complete a task. It’s fine to get it very rough. You won’t have to send it. This calms the fearful part of the rational mind. You will feel much better for having made a start. You can let it settle and will find it much easier to edit on returning back to it after a while.     

4)   Allocate time boundaries for how long you spend on email

It’s easy to spend time only responding to email and still have lots unread.              

Allocate set times when you will check your email and don’t check it outside of these times. Block out the non-email times. Remind yourself of what is important that you want to get done and associate the pleasure that will come from that. Stop being reactive and become a creator of what happens when in your day.

5)   Reduce the number of emails you send and receive

When you block out time for high impact work that contributes to your strategic vision you will have less time available for handling email. Spend less time in your inbox. Write shorter messages. Write less in general. Don’t ask questions in an email unless absolutely necessary to reduce the number of replies you receive. Set up a folder for important follow-ups, a distinct space where you go when you are alert.

Tidy inbox, tidy mind, better quality thinking, better results.      


Carl Rodrigues is a productivity coach and helps people find their mission and purpose. Conscious Productivity is a 2 week online course that helps busy people find tools and strategies to think more clearly, get the important things done and be more relaxed and in flow, consciously creating their day.  www.peacethroughaction.com  

Photo (cc) Sean MacEntee. Some rights reserved.