Your inbox is the place where other people’s priorities live.
If an email is simply something that you’re supposed to read, if it’s “for your information,” then it’s someone’s priority that you read their email so they can be confident you’re aware of something. This OPP is really someone’s CYA.
If an email is a request for you to actually do something, that request is being made by someone who believes it is a priority. But whose priority is it? If they didn’t believe it was a priority for you it wouldn’t have ended up in your inbox.
A lot of the email you receive is a request for information. You know something someone else needs to know, and they need your help with that information. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have some other way to find the information. But, if they know you have it, they’re happy to unload their priority onto you.
Your Priorities First
Instead of waiting in front of an open inbox all day for other people’s priorities to arrive (being completely reactive) close your email. No seriously; just close it. When you open your inbox, process your email. As you process that email, determine the best and most effective way to respond to other people’s priorities.
If someone needs to share information with you, archive it to a “read later” folder. If someone requests that you do some task, add the task to your calendar, defer the task, delegate to someone else, or shoot a quick email back renegotiating the timeframe so that it better meets your schedule. I know this isn’t always possible, but a lot of the time it is.
If you have information that someone else needs, determine the urgency with which they need that information. Then decide the best way for you to respond–and the best medium. If you’re in sales and you’re in your car a lot, print the emails and make the calls from the road. There’s no reason to travel to a client site and waste the time in the car when you could be blasting out some of the work you need to complete for others.
It’s difficult to achieve all of your own necessary outcomes, but it’s impossible to do so if you’re always vigilantly standing by waiting for other people’s priorities to arrive. It’s important that you don’t neglect other people’s needs. But it isn’t necessary–or effective–to allow their priorities to become yours.
Is your inbox open right now? Really? You still haven’t closed it? Seriously. It will be okay.
How much of your inbox is someone else’s priorities?
What percentage of your email is really just someone covering themselves?
How can you use time that would otherwise be wasted to respond to other people’s priorities?
How do you make time for your priorities?