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Is E-mail Eating Your Precious Time?

By Paul Lima |

How do you start your business day?

If you are like many writers, you turn on your computer and spend an hour or more reading and replying to e-mail, reading electronic newsletters and online newspapers, and surfing the Web.

Unfortunately, most of what you do at the start of your day is not related to business, or is tangential to expanding your business.

If you start your day reading e-mail and surfing the Web, you are letting e-mail and the Internet eat your precious time.

Why do so many business owners and other independent practitioners start their day wasting time? They do this because they do not have a business plan or a marketing plan. In short, they do not know what to do with their time. (See Much Ado About Time Management.)

Once you create your business and marketing plans, you will feel more focused because you will have a business-related to-do list. Then you can use an e-mail application like Microsoft Outlook as your time-management friend.

Keep a list of marketing tasks in Outlook's Task Manager and start your business day there, rather than in your Inbox. Complete your daily marketing tasks - the tasks that will allow you to implement your business plan - before you visit your Inbox.

And make sure your Inbox is empty by the end of the day. You heard me right: empty your Inbox.

E-mail messages in your Inbox can lead to an overwhelming sensation that you are swamped - that you have so much to do, and no time to do it. That is why you want to deal with e-mail in a productive and efficient manner.

How do you keep your Inbox empty? When you receive e-mail, do one of the following:

" Read and delete " Read, reply and delete " Read and file (in an appropriate folder) " Read, reply, and file (in an appropriate folder).

In Microsoft Outlook, as well as most other e-mail applications, you can create folders for each client or project you are working on and you can move e-mail into these folders. You can also move e-mail into Task Manager and Calendar.

Task Manager allows you to schedule tasks (such as reply to the e-mail you moved to Task Manager). A reminder can be set to pop up when the task is due.

Calendar allows you to block time for meetings, interviews, cold calls, and so on. A reminder can be set to pop up days, hours, or minutes before the scheduled event.

Use Calendar and Task Manager (or the equivalent applications in your scheduling software) to keep your Inbox empty and to schedule your time more effectively so you can focus your time on implementing your business and marketing plans.

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