E-Mail Monkey

This is the first in a series of e-mail workflow posts. Enjoy.

Recently, I found myself engaged in some rather tricky negotiations on a client matter. My opposite number was, for lack of a better word, an e-mail monkey.

The conversation went like this:

Talk talk talk, jabber jabber jabber for a few minutes.

BlackBerry Ding!

Silence.

The other guy’s head pops up like a howler monkey while he reaches in his pocket, takes out the BlackBerry, and completely ignores me.

Eventually, through progressively more aggressive attempts to get his attention, culminating in me dropping a heavy corporate book on the table from 4 inches, we re-engage.

Talk talk talk, jabber jabber jabber for about 2 minutes.

BlackBerry Ding!

It was maddening. After wasting 15 minutes this way, I pointed to a pitcher of water and politely explained that if that thing rang again, I was going to dunk it. He thought I was joking. I wasn’t. Nevertheless, he grinned sheepishly and turned it off.

I got thinking afterwards, how does this person get anything done? If your e-mail dings every 5 minutes, that is …

12 times an hour

96 times a day

480 times a week

24,000 interruptions a year

This assumes you work an eight hour day and take two weeks off for vacation. E-mail monkeys don’t do this. They check e-mail at two o’clock in the morning and on the beach in Maui.

I’ve written about this before. Becoming an e-mail monkey prevents you from getting any quality work done. Instead, your attention and focus are sacrificed every time a Viagra dealer breaks through your spam wall. Don’t go there. Just don’t.

So here is a three step method to escape going primate:

  1. Turn off all dings, badges, and other e-mail intrusions;

  2. Figure out the minimum number of times you need to check e-mail a day. This is different for everyone. I get away with three times. For some people it may be once (or ten times).

  3. Build a habit of checking your e-mail just the minimum number of times and no more. Give yourself a schedule and stick to it.

I’ll cover exactly how to go about checking your e-mail with the next post in this series.

16 Comments E-Mail Monkey

  1. jim@jimscomputing.com

    What's worse is when it's your boss that does it and you're in a meeting with 3 other coworkers. That's 4 people's time wasted every time the phone rings or the email dings. The worst part is we can do nothing about it – he's the boss. Oh well, if he wants to pay me to sit and slowly go mad while he answers his wife's email so be it. Reserve that pretty padded room for me, I'll be needing it soon. I'll take the one with hot and cold running daiseys and the brick windows.

    Reply
  2. jim@jimscomputing.com

    What's worse is when it's your boss that does it and you're in a meeting with 3 other coworkers. That's 4 people's time wasted every time the phone rings or the email dings. The worst part is we can do nothing about it – he's the boss. Oh well, if he wants to pay me to sit and slowly go mad while he answers his wife's email so be it. Reserve that pretty padded room for me, I'll be needing it soon. I'll take the one with hot and cold running daiseys and the brick windows.

    Reply
  3. jim@jimscomputing.com

    What's worse is when it's your boss that does it and you're in a meeting with 3 other coworkers. That's 4 people's time wasted every time the phone rings or the email dings. The worst part is we can do nothing about it – he's the boss. Oh well, if he wants to pay me to sit and slowly go mad while he answers his wife's email so be it. Reserve that pretty padded room for me, I'll be needing it soon. I'll take the one with hot and cold running daiseys and the brick windows.

    Reply
  4. jim@jimscomputing.com

    What's worse is when it's your boss that does it and you're in a meeting with 3 other coworkers. That's 4 people's time wasted every time the phone rings or the email dings. The worst part is we can do nothing about it – he's the boss. Oh well, if he wants to pay me to sit and slowly go mad while he answers his wife's email so be it. Reserve that pretty padded room for me, I'll be needing it soon. I'll take the one with hot and cold running daiseys and the brick windows.

    Reply
  5. jim@jimscomputing.com

    What's worse is when it's your boss that does it and you're in a meeting with 3 other coworkers. That's 4 people's time wasted every time the phone rings or the email dings. The worst part is we can do nothing about it – he's the boss. Oh well, if he wants to pay me to sit and slowly go mad while he answers his wife's email so be it. Reserve that pretty padded room for me, I'll be needing it soon. I'll take the one with hot and cold running daiseys and the brick windows.

    Reply
  6. mail@keyboardkahuna.com

    I used to have a boss who couldn't let the phone ring even when she was in a meeting with people. She always answered it, even if she was in the middle of a meeting. I think she didn't realize that her behaviour wreaked havoc on her own and the productivity of all the people in the meeting, much less that it was exceptionally rude.

    Your article made me – once again – realize that I have to radically change the way I deal with email. Right now Apple Mail is running at all times and set to check email every 15 minutes. What's worse is that some of my IMAP accounts somehow "magically" retrieve email the second it hits the server (I guess I somehow have those accounts set to "push"), effectively resulting in even more interruptions than one in 15 minutes.

    This needs to change.

    Actually, this calls for a nice little 30-day "challenge": Effective immediately, I'm going to quit Mail and only launch it to retrieve email three times throughout the day. I'll stick to this for 30 days after which I hope I'll have formed a new habit to replace the old one.

    We'll see. Wish me luck 😉

    Reply
  7. mail@keyboardkahuna.com

    I used to have a boss who couldn't let the phone ring even when she was in a meeting with people. She always answered it, even if she was in the middle of a meeting. I think she didn't realize that her behaviour wreaked havoc on her own and the productivity of all the people in the meeting, much less that it was exceptionally rude.

    Your article made me – once again – realize that I have to radically change the way I deal with email. Right now Apple Mail is running at all times and set to check email every 15 minutes. What's worse is that some of my IMAP accounts somehow "magically" retrieve email the second it hits the server (I guess I somehow have those accounts set to "push"), effectively resulting in even more interruptions than one in 15 minutes.

    This needs to change.

    Actually, this calls for a nice little 30-day "challenge": Effective immediately, I'm going to quit Mail and only launch it to retrieve email three times throughout the day. I'll stick to this for 30 days after which I hope I'll have formed a new habit to replace the old one.

    We'll see. Wish me luck 😉

    Reply
  8. mail@keyboardkahuna.com

    I used to have a boss who couldn't let the phone ring even when she was in a meeting with people. She always answered it, even if she was in the middle of a meeting. I think she didn't realize that her behaviour wreaked havoc on her own and the productivity of all the people in the meeting, much less that it was exceptionally rude.

    Your article made me – once again – realize that I have to radically change the way I deal with email. Right now Apple Mail is running at all times and set to check email every 15 minutes. What's worse is that some of my IMAP accounts somehow "magically" retrieve email the second it hits the server (I guess I somehow have those accounts set to "push"), effectively resulting in even more interruptions than one in 15 minutes.

    This needs to change.

    Actually, this calls for a nice little 30-day "challenge": Effective immediately, I'm going to quit Mail and only launch it to retrieve email three times throughout the day. I'll stick to this for 30 days after which I hope I'll have formed a new habit to replace the old one.

    We'll see. Wish me luck 😉

    Reply
  9. mail@keyboardkahuna.com

    I used to have a boss who couldn't let the phone ring even when she was in a meeting with people. She always answered it, even if she was in the middle of a meeting. I think she didn't realize that her behaviour wreaked havoc on her own and the productivity of all the people in the meeting, much less that it was exceptionally rude.

    Your article made me – once again – realize that I have to radically change the way I deal with email. Right now Apple Mail is running at all times and set to check email every 15 minutes. What's worse is that some of my IMAP accounts somehow "magically" retrieve email the second it hits the server (I guess I somehow have those accounts set to "push"), effectively resulting in even more interruptions than one in 15 minutes.

    This needs to change.

    Actually, this calls for a nice little 30-day "challenge": Effective immediately, I'm going to quit Mail and only launch it to retrieve email three times throughout the day. I'll stick to this for 30 days after which I hope I'll have formed a new habit to replace the old one.

    We'll see. Wish me luck 😉

    Reply
  10. mail@keyboardkahuna.com

    I used to have a boss who couldn't let the phone ring even when she was in a meeting with people. She always answered it, even if she was in the middle of a meeting. I think she didn't realize that her behaviour wreaked havoc on her own and the productivity of all the people in the meeting, much less that it was exceptionally rude.

    Your article made me – once again – realize that I have to radically change the way I deal with email. Right now Apple Mail is running at all times and set to check email every 15 minutes. What's worse is that some of my IMAP accounts somehow "magically" retrieve email the second it hits the server (I guess I somehow have those accounts set to "push"), effectively resulting in even more interruptions than one in 15 minutes.

    This needs to change.

    Actually, this calls for a nice little 30-day "challenge": Effective immediately, I'm going to quit Mail and only launch it to retrieve email three times throughout the day. I'll stick to this for 30 days after which I hope I'll have formed a new habit to replace the old one.

    We'll see. Wish me luck 😉

    Reply
  11. jim@jimscomputing.com

    I started something 6-8 months ago that may help others. It does me… usually. I use Growl and my email program (currently Postbox) issues a growl notification when new mail arrives. I also use 2 computers because I have to program on a WinPC in .NET.

    Because of office distractions and my love for music I have headphones on almost all day. I set up growl to speak instead of the various box styles it has so I don't have to keep looking over to the Mac when I'm programming. Now when an email comes in it says "my_email_address – new mail from Joe Smith".

    It's still potentially a constant distraction, but since I have to use email for work I can at least say "That's the boss, lemme look" or "I don't know who that is – I'll look later". It's better than reading everything when it arrives or getting fired for not reading the boss's email. 🙂

    Reply
  12. jim@jimscomputing.com

    I started something 6-8 months ago that may help others. It does me… usually. I use Growl and my email program (currently Postbox) issues a growl notification when new mail arrives. I also use 2 computers because I have to program on a WinPC in .NET.

    Because of office distractions and my love for music I have headphones on almost all day. I set up growl to speak instead of the various box styles it has so I don't have to keep looking over to the Mac when I'm programming. Now when an email comes in it says "my_email_address – new mail from Joe Smith".

    It's still potentially a constant distraction, but since I have to use email for work I can at least say "That's the boss, lemme look" or "I don't know who that is – I'll look later". It's better than reading everything when it arrives or getting fired for not reading the boss's email. 🙂

    Reply
  13. jim@jimscomputing.com

    I started something 6-8 months ago that may help others. It does me… usually. I use Growl and my email program (currently Postbox) issues a growl notification when new mail arrives. I also use 2 computers because I have to program on a WinPC in .NET.

    Because of office distractions and my love for music I have headphones on almost all day. I set up growl to speak instead of the various box styles it has so I don't have to keep looking over to the Mac when I'm programming. Now when an email comes in it says "my_email_address – new mail from Joe Smith".

    It's still potentially a constant distraction, but since I have to use email for work I can at least say "That's the boss, lemme look" or "I don't know who that is – I'll look later". It's better than reading everything when it arrives or getting fired for not reading the boss's email. 🙂

    Reply
  14. jim@jimscomputing.com

    I started something 6-8 months ago that may help others. It does me… usually. I use Growl and my email program (currently Postbox) issues a growl notification when new mail arrives. I also use 2 computers because I have to program on a WinPC in .NET.

    Because of office distractions and my love for music I have headphones on almost all day. I set up growl to speak instead of the various box styles it has so I don't have to keep looking over to the Mac when I'm programming. Now when an email comes in it says "my_email_address – new mail from Joe Smith".

    It's still potentially a constant distraction, but since I have to use email for work I can at least say "That's the boss, lemme look" or "I don't know who that is – I'll look later". It's better than reading everything when it arrives or getting fired for not reading the boss's email. 🙂

    Reply
  15. jim@jimscomputing.com

    I started something 6-8 months ago that may help others. It does me… usually. I use Growl and my email program (currently Postbox) issues a growl notification when new mail arrives. I also use 2 computers because I have to program on a WinPC in .NET.

    Because of office distractions and my love for music I have headphones on almost all day. I set up growl to speak instead of the various box styles it has so I don't have to keep looking over to the Mac when I'm programming. Now when an email comes in it says "my_email_address – new mail from Joe Smith".

    It's still potentially a constant distraction, but since I have to use email for work I can at least say "That's the boss, lemme look" or "I don't know who that is – I'll look later". It's better than reading everything when it arrives or getting fired for not reading the boss's email. 🙂

    Reply
  16. Julie K

    I agree; it is very rude when people read their email, text or answer calls when meeting with others. The other day the other attorney was reading email most of the time we deposed his client. I have email sounds notification turned off on my iPhone. I am going to try to reduce the number of times I check email though.

    Reply

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