Just recently I have had a spate of coaching clients who have been talking to me about how they find it hard to concentrate at work on any particular project for a length of time because of email.  

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Is this you?  You are sitting at your desk looking forward to the day with several fairly big pieces of work to do that will require your concentration and focus.  You start the first one, and then your mind wanders to think about an email reply you are waiting on.  "I'll just have a quick look" you say to yourself and then once you look at your email, something else catches your eye.  You feel the need to respond immediately to those messages that keep coming into your inbox, and if you have audio sound to tell you another message has arrived, its even worse!

By the end of the day, you have kept on top of your emails, but that list of big pieces of work (that are important and need to be done) has not reduced much.  As a result, you say to yourself, "I'll just work late, or even take it home to do where I won't be distracted".

What's going on?  Are we as human being incapable of being in control of our day?  Can we not resist the call of the inbox?

The sort of reasons I hear from business people are:

-  if I am working from home, people will expect me to respond immediately to emails or they will think I am not working

– people expect an immediate reply to email, I can't just leave it until later

– I can't stand having unread messages at the end of the day, so I feel the need to keep on top of my emails

What can you do to take back that control and get focused?

 

1.   Ask yourself what's the real reason for your behaviour? 

2.  Change your habits – switch off the audio on your email so that it does not make an alarm noise when a new message arrives.

3.  Communicate with your key contacts and tell them that you are having a new approach to email and will only be looking at, and responding to messages twice a day.  If they have something urgent maybe they should call you  and if not, the message will be replied to in the next day or so, not next hour or so.

4.  Start on the biggest task of the day first.   Complete it and then allow yourself to look at your email as a reward.

5.  Take back the control of how YOU manage your day.  It will make you feel so much more productive and you will be able to concentrate more easily.