Posts Tagged 'Time Management'

The E-mail Time Suck

Pavlov let us know about stimulus response. Ring the bell, get food.

AOL gave us “You’ve got mail!” Check your email.

Microsoft gave us the envelope indicator, the ding and the translucent indicator sneak peek. Hurry and check that email.

Ok? Now some of the following is an idea I first got from reading The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss so I am giving credit where credit is due.

Email has become one of the greatest productivity reducers in the American workplace.

It dings and we look. It dings and we salivate. It dings and we immediately respond.

Is this really productive? Is this really responsible?

First of all, most of the mail is junk (spam or e-zines).

The second batch are notifications of information that may be important but certainly not urgent.

The next batch is the batch we care most about. Personal correspondence.

But does this personal correspondence need to be answered immediately?

More importantly, is it BEST answered immediately?

Perhaps it should sit and be thought about? More importantly, how many of you find yourselves having email conversation?

Is this good? I would suggest no. Conversation is BEST had face to face. Body language counts.

The next best way to have conversation is likely over the phone. Tone of voice?

Can you recall an email conversation where one of you misconstrued what the other had said or intended? Did that work well?

Did you ever wish there was a sarcasm font?!?!

So what do you do about all of this?

Step one on the road to recovery. Turn off your email notifications.

Yes! Turn off the little envelope. Turn off the ding. Turn off the translucent tease.

Step two. Only check your emails at consistent and regular intervals. Now I know this sounds hard, but I have been doing it for over a year now and boy do I feel better.

Don’t engage in email conversation anymore if it involves your customers or clients and you have a relationship with the person. I believe professional advisors do have, and desire to have, relationships with their clients.

PICK UP THE PHONE! Yes, talk to them. This is actually more productive as less time is wasted. How many times has it worked trying to schedule a meeting by email? Does settling a complaint work via email?

But you want people to know you are not ignoring them, right? You want them to know you received the email and you care?

Most email programs have given you a great little tool to deal with this. It’s called the OUT OF OFFICE notice.

And here is mine: (edited slightly)


I am in today AND normally checking e-mail around noon and 4pm on weekdays.

Because of the VERY high level of client contact we provide, I am responding to telephone calls first.

If you are emailing me about an investment or planning matter, please CALL me and leave a detailed message if I am not immediately available.

If this is an administrative matter, please contact staff as listed below.

It is VERY important to me to speak with each and every client who would like to talk. I will contact you.

If you need immediate assistance, please contact our office at 860-677-8808.

If I am unavailable, please speak to my assistant xxx or xyz or abc or email them at:

You may also contact xxxxx at our Client Services desk directly at 800-647-7378

Thank you for your understanding. This helps me accomplish more to serve you better.

Sincerely, Eliot


This out of office message is on pretty much all the time. It allows clients to know that the email has been received but if it is urgent, please call and why they should call.

Guide – Instant responses to email are killing your productivity and taking you away from the things that are really important.

Action item – Using an out of office message or a response rule alerts those to the new procedures and actually creates better client relationships. And of course – Use the phone!

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