Workus Interruptus

October 2, 2007 | Process Design, Time Management | Sandye

Thoughts from Sandye Linnetz, Systems Goddess, Process Prodigy

What task is the #1 misuse of time in business?
Survey Says: E-mail

Beware the e-mail... it can be your most appealing interruption and the biggest obstruction to your success! The catch-22? It can also be your biggest asset. The solution to this 21st century dilemma is knowing when to ignore, when to delegate and how to handle your e-mail.

While e-mail is likely to be the leading waste of your valuable time, the simple, practical suggestions below should get you on the road to e-mail control.

Check email once, or maybe twice a day... always at the same time and allot a set amount of time to do that. In his book, The 4-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss suggests that you turn off the sounds that alert you (or should I say disturb you) when a new e-mail has arrived, that you never check your e-mail first thing in the morning (use that time to complete your most important tasks) and that you create an email auto-response to alert senders about when you check your e-mail and how to reach you in an emergency. He reminds us that few "emergencies" are really as urgent as that...

Write shorter e-mails... use concise answers to questions... or make simple requests. Leave out unnecessary details.

Make use of the subject line. Your simple responses, requests or messages can be written just on the subject line. When requesting information, providing information or requesting an action, a short, concise sentence is often enough. Wouldn't you appreciate if senders did that for you?

Create a few well-written templates for FAQ, requests and inquiries and get into the habit of using them.
Process your e-mail by determining what is truly urgent, what only you can answer, and what is junk mail. Then either respond immediately (if it will literally take only a minute or two and is truly so earth-shattering that it just can't wait), delete it, archive it, generate an action from it, delegate the handling of it to someone else, or defer it for a later response.

Create an e-mail system that works for you. Having a clear process in place works. When it is written down and accessible to your entire team - when everyone understands and uses the same system - e-mail becomes a work tool instead of a work stopper. It's all about the system you create... an effective e-mail system will benefit both your company and your clients.

Ready to set up your process? Here are a few steps to take:

  1. Examine where your e-mail is coming from... personal, colleague, client, vendor, solicitor
  2. Categorize the type of e-mails you receive. Are they informational? Inquiries? Customer service related?
  3. Eliminate the junk. Use spam controls.
  4. Decide what only you can handle and what should be farmed out to your team.
  5. Decide which team member will handle each category and, set up different e-mail accounts to direct mail accordingly.
  6. Create policies for how each team members will handle e-mail.
  7. Determine how you will be kept in the loop.
  8. Take a really great vacation with all of the extra time and money you have just created.

© 2007 Beth Schneider.

Want to reprint this article? Feel free as long as you include the following: "Beth Schneider, Chief Infopreneur of Process Prodigy, is a business process consultant who helps solo-entrepreneurs, small business owners and network marketers who want to systemize their business to increase profits, increase productivity and grow their business without having to give up the family oriented, flexible, balanced lifestyle they desire. Beth works one-on-one with her clients, offers home study courses, and teleclass boot camps. For more information visit and sign up for your FREE 5-Step Process Starter Kit and FREE Process Tips. Also, visit Process Prodigy's family sites and

Leave a comment