The email inbox. It’s a place for other people’s priorities and their requests of you. Eliminating one email by, say, replying to it with an answer, is almost guaranteed with 100 percent certainty to return another email, or more likely two more. Once all emails have been answered, one need only wait overnight to have the all of the deleted emails to be replaced again.
Some of what is in your inbox, the priorities and requests of others, is important. Some of the “others” who have sent you an email are important to you, and some of those emails need a reply. But the fact that something requires a reply is not an indication as to its urgency. When something is urgent, email isn’t the most reliable form of communication, much as a traditional mailed envelope delivered by the postal service would not be the best method of avoiding something catastrophic after the invention of the telephone.
You have clients. Your clients need your attention, and they need your help. From time to time, they will communicate with you by email. Some of your prospective clients, your dream clients, will reply to your request to meet with them by email. A few of them may even agree to meet with you. Almost none of these emails will be urgent, as it is a rare choice for clients who have a challenge that requires immediate attention. Because the likelihood of an email containing some urgent piece of news that requires your immediate attention is infinitesimal, you don’t need to sit watch over your inbox.
Truth: You cannot do your best work with your email open and your smartphone notifying you of every potential outside attempt to gain your attention.
Rule: If you are going to do quality work, work worth paying for, you must close the browser, close your email, and turn off your notifications while you do that work.
If your client or dream client needs you for something now, they have your phone number and they will call you. If it is urgent, your phone will ring. If on the other hand, they chose to send you an email, they had no expectation that you should communicate with them in real time over an asynchronous medium. Nor did they have any idea when you might read their note.
If you are nervous about missing something, know that nothing in your inbox is so important that it can’t wait an hour while you are head-down, focused, and giving your full and undivided attention to your real work. You can go an hour without your email. As you become braver, stretch that hour to 90 minutes and do more meaningful work.
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