My last column was about my personal system for responding to my e-mail. You can read it for the full effect, but basically I said that, contrary to a lot of what you read, I like to have my e-mail program open all the time, and that I will often respond to a message as soon as it comes in so that it is done. A reader made an excellent comment — that by reading and responding to e-mails instantly you can set expectations in the minds of colleagues or clients that you will always do that. When you don´t, they will feel like you have broken a promise that you didn´t even make.
To that, I have two things to say. First, I agree absolutely. One of the biggest keys to being productive is, as much as possible, to be in control of your own destiny. Every time someone else has a claim on your time, or makes demands you have to meet, you lose a little more of the ability to effectively manage your time in the most efficient possible manner. In a perfect world, those you work with and for would accept receiving things like responses to e-mails when they work for you, not when they work for them.
So how do I get around that? Well, I often like to respond to an e-mail as soon as I get it if it will be quick so that it is out of the way, but that doesn´t mean that I have to send it. When I have responded to the e-mail I don´t have to press send. Instead, I regularly press save. That puts the message into the Drafts folder (I use Outlook for e-mail, but different programs will have a similar function). Sometime later in the day I will spend the 10 seconds it takes to go into the Drafts folder and send the messages that have accumulated there. The task is finished quickly and efficiently, and I haven´t had to sacrifice the relationships I have built.
I believe strongly in that concept of doing work when you feel like doing it, and then finding a way to make it work. Take these columns for example. They get posted four times a week at about noon mountain time, but they almost never get written on that same day. I found early on that I struggled to be creative if I felt the pressure of an impending deadline and I didn’t enjoy writing them, so now I do them in advance and schedule them to post automatically. Sometimes it´s a day or two early, other times it´s a week or two. It depends on the ideas I have and if, and when, the whim strikes me to write them.