In business we start the day with the best of intentions – knock out those priorities! Then, an ever-present little voice reminds us to check the inbox; our attention turns from focusing on results to focusing on email.

The biggest problem with email these days is that it probably features other people’s priorities. Opening it can feel a little like opening a can of worms, or even worse, Pandora’s Box. Email has the potential to consume the day, unrelated to our intended goals.

Some studies estimate that ‘content switching’ or interruptions (which emails can be) could consume as much as six hours in a work day. Jonathan Spira, author of  “Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization,” estimates that interruptions and information overload eat up 28 billion wasted hours a year, at a loss of almost $1 trillion to the U.S. economy.

Simply put, email can consume your business life. Some studies have concluded that it may take up to 25 minutes to refocus on an intended task after being interrupted. Do the math on lost time. It’s scary.


  1. Turn off the ding! That familiar ping that accompanies incoming mail says ‘pay attention to me.’ Since humans are curious, the temptation is to ‘click.’  Our little voice says: ‘It might be important.’ If it is really important, the person will call.
  2. If email is automatically displayed on the side of your computer screen, turn that function off. You see it even when you should be focused on something else.
  3. Return email in batches! Set times twice per day when you can crank out 10 replies at once. Pick times you have not assigned for focused work. Stick to it!
  4. When you email a person too many times per day, they pay less attention. Be completely clear the first time, or pick up the phone and talk to them instead.
  5. Don’t ask to be copied on everything unless it is potentially a legal matter, and  don’t ask employees to keep you in the ‘loop’ on their daily stuff. Trust them to do their jobs without constant oversight. If they can’t, get new people.
  6. Chain emails back and forth for clarification can be irritating. If messages are  misunderstood the first time, pick up the phone and speak to the person.
  7. Spell correctly. Use correct grammar. Not only does it look professional, you never know when emails will wind up in the newspaper or forwarded to someone you never intended.
  8. Leave the iPhone or Blackberry behind sometimes. You don’t need to check mail at the gym or the sandwich shop. Live life. Remember to relax sometimes.
  9. Remember, email is not your job. It is just a tool. If too much of your day is spent sending and responding to email, reevaluate priorities.
  10. Focus on results, not the inbox.

River City Consulting is just that – a consulting resource. We help businesses succeed. Contact us!