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The Real Reason that Email is the Death of Productivity

by | Productivity

The Real Reason that Email is the Death of Productivity

by | Sep 4, 2016

The key to time management, no matter what kind of business you run, really lies in the answer to one important question: are you reactive, or proactive?

Being reactive means running your business based on what comes at you, rather than seeking out what to do next.

Using email as a todo-list is wholly reactive. You sit there, waiting for other people to tell you what you need to get done.

No matter what might be important to get done that day, if you’re taking orders from what’s coming at you in real time, you’re always going to be at a disadvantage. You’re constantly going to be under assault from whichever wheel squeaks the loudest.

You might have ten things you need to get done today. Truly urgent, truly important things. But if you open up your inbox first thing in the morning, you’re suddenly at the whim of whatever customer is jumping up and down trying to get your attention in that moment.

That customer’s issue might be important. It might be urgent. But, more times than not, it isn’t. Not to the sanctity of your business at least.

Being proactive, on the other hand, gives you power over your workload. It also keeps you from getting overwhelmed. Being proactive is being in control, and it’s also the best and only way to be both effective and efficient.

Here’s how to be proactive when it comes to your time.

1. Turn of your Email Notifications


In the 1890s, a Russian physiologist observed what’s famously known as Pavlov’s Dog: classical conditioning.

Very simply, repetitive stimulus conditions us into certain behaviour. When our phone buzzes, we instantly grab at it. And your phone telling you what to do is no less reactive than sitting in your inbox waiting for messages to come in.

Basically what we’ve done is Pavlov’d ourselves with that invasive little red dot.

Turn off your notifications.

It’ll instantly put you in a proactive position.

2. Schedule Everything

Schedule everything you do. Everything. If it needs to be done, put it in your calendar.

Payroll. Reconciling accounts. Client management. Checking your emails. Whatever. Everything.

That which is scheduled gets done.


3. Prioritise

American President Dwight D. Eisenhower was once asked how he managed his time. His response was that he made a hard distinction between Importance and Urgency.

More recently, this strategy has been called the Four Ds, and has become all kinds of trendy.

Here’s what that looks like.

Do: If the task is both important AND urgent, DO it.

Defer: If the task is important but NOT urgent, you can put it off for now. Just schedule it into your calendar for a later date.

Delegate: If something isn’t important but is still urgent, delegate it. Give it to someone else who can handle it. This gets it off your plate, but also doesn’t ignore the task. It gets done by someone who has less important, less pressing things to get done.

Delete: If the task is neither important nor urgent, just get rid of it. So many people walk around with these kinds of tasks hanging around their neck, which serves for nothing more than creating a nagging sensation of being overwhelmed. So quit it. Kick that shit into the trash bin. You have our permission. You weren’t going to do it anyway, so just rid yourself of the stress it’s causing.

4. Choose Your Manual Tasks

Everything you do is manual. But the important thing about time management is to choose what you do that’s manual. You can do 100 things manually. Or, you can accomplish the same 100 things while automating 80 of them.

The power behind automating as many systems in your business is that it frees you up to do the stuff you are built to do. You’re not going to be able to take the time to brainstorm the next evolution of your business if you’re having to put out every single fire that pops up within your purview.

Automation gives you back the time that you need to push your business to the next level.

You only have so much time, both in your business and (on a more cosmic scale) in your life. There’s no reason to approach it reactively. Your business won’t thrive—or scale—if you’re not being proactive.

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