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!


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.