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Do You Have Checking-Email-Itus?

May 09 2012

 sleeping workI was stumbling around on StumbleUpon and came across an infographic that got me thinking about whether or not I have "information overload" (the infographic appears at the end of this article). I've concluded that I most definitely do, but localized in one main area--email. I check my work email every five minutes or so, and my personal email only slightly less often. If I'm not at my computer, I'm checking email on my phone.

Here's the other conclusion I came to: it makes me less productive. I interrupt other tasks in order to do it, and they end up taking longer because of it. I always feel slightly distracted. And I don't think I'm alone. If you take an honest look at yourself, I bet you'll find that you have the same tendencies. And I don't think it's a stretch to question whether or not it's impacting your professional success.

I know what you're going to say, "As a real estate agent, I need to be responsive to be successful." This is true. And if you know that you're expecting a time-sensitive email (with an offer, signed documents, etc.), then checking your email frequently is more than acceptable – it's just plain common sense. However, I think we all need to recognize that a 30-minute to one-hour delay isn't going to make or break most correspondence. After all, you're away from your email AT LEAST that long when you're in a meeting, a showing, or driving (hopefully).

So what can we do? Even people with a severe case of Checking-Email-Itus, such as myself, have hope. Here are my prescriptions:

  • Create rules for yourself. As an experiment, I told myself that I couldn't check my personal email for two hours or my work email for one hour (even if the Mac Mail icon on my MacBook's dock indicated I had several messages). The results of this experiment won't surprise you – I was much more efficient. I recommend trying something similar – give yourself some rules; they don't need to be the same as mine, just as long as you're limiting yourself.
  • Replace the behavior. Every time you want to check your email, think about whether or not it has been at least 30 minutes. If it hasn't, take a sip of water from a big water bottle. Not only will this help you be more efficient, it will help you stay hydrated and healthy!
  • Invest in a CRM, document management, and/or transaction management solution. Many people spend more time than they need to in their email because they use it to manage contacts, store documents, and calendar tasks. Of course, an email program is not an appropriate solution for any of these things. For this reason – and SO MANY more – consider investing in one or several products created specifically for CRMdocument management, or transaction management.

What are YOUR strategies for dealing with information overload?

And, last but not least, the infographic: