NZS, Episode 0006: Strategies To Help You Tackle Your Email!

Nate: Hello everyone and welcome to episode 6 of the Nate Zeisler Show. Before we begin, I just want to give a shoutout to Buzzsprout, the platform I use to record this podcast. Buzzsprout is a super easy website to use and it quickly gets your show listed in every major podcast platform, including apple podcasts, spotify, and google podcasts. Now is the time to get your podcast going and I encourage you to click this link in the transcribed version of this podcast on my website or the link in my shownotes to get started! Ok, now onto our question from Aaron, who dropped me an email to ask the following: 

Aaron: Nate, I need help! I am completely overwhelmed by my inbox. What strategies to you have to help me find work/life balance in a time when everyone seems to have unlimited amounts of time to send emails? I’m spending too much time in front of a screen and it’s just too much. 

Nate: Thanks Aaron and let me just say that the irony that you sent your question via email is not lost on me and boy do I hear you! Email can be one of the biggest challenges to achieving work/life balance and, admittedly, I often get sucked in to replying and can’t dig my way out. With that in mind, I do have some tactical strategies along with some action steps that I’ve used over the years that may be helpful to you. 

  1. Tackle email after you get your big thing out of the way–Practicing your art, having time to think, or planning a new project is WAY more important and energizing. If you start with the black hole of email, chances are, you could spend your entire allotted time for big picture things responding to email.
    Action: Look at your calendar and block off a two hour block each day before you open your email in order to tackle big things you’d like to accomplish. 
  2. Schedule a time to check email–Check your email only AFTER you tackle your big thing for the day and keep yourself to a tight schedule for reading and responding. Generally, I check my email in late morning and mid-afternoon. Otherwise, I try to stay away.
    Action: Block in two separate hours a day to check email and do not go beyond that time. Ideally, you’re only responding to email for one hour a day in total. 
  3. Don’t focus on getting your inbox to zero–One of the challenges we all face in limiting ourselves to a set amount of time for checking email is that we strive to see an inbox sitting at zero.
    Action: Instead of working to get your inbox to zero, which is short-lived, tackle the most important emails with the amount of time you have. Your priority should be in responding to the notes that have an immediate, direct impact on your work. 
  4. Stop with the formalities–I tend to be a perfectionist with my emails, often taking time to write a nice opening sentence and wishing others well at the end. Important, but not necessary if you’re on the fly. I remember one time agonizing over every word I wrote when I sent an email to a person who was in a position of helping me get a job. I spent hours revising, cutting, pasting and getting the note just right, only to get a response in two minutes with a one sentence reply that had typos and grammatical errors. When I received that email, a light bulb went off….The flawed email actually didn’t bother me. What was more important for me was simply that the person replied.
    Action: Use the 80-20 rule to create more efficiency in your email process. Can you compose an email in 20% of the time and get 80% functionality? The best way I’ve figured out to do this is to get rid of the formalities and just get down to business with every note. 
  5. Turn off push notifications–Getting pinged when you receive an email is the worst. It takes you away from your train of thought and is a constant reminder that your email is controlling your life.
    Action: Turn off your email notifications on your phone right now and don’t look back. 
  6. Don’t check email before bed–Want to ruin a good night of sleep? Check your email before bed. I remember I once had a co-worker who was a night owl that loved to drop prickly emails right as I was about to fall asleep, effectively shooting adrenaline through my veins and keeping me up for several more hours.  Nothing good can come from checking your email at night. Stop doing it.
    Action: Charge your phone in the kitchen and stop looking at your screen before you go to bed.

Aaron, thanks so much for the question. Developing strategies for email to find balance can be difficult. Be persistent and treat this as something that needs to be worked on every day in order to find balance.

For my listeners, contributing a question for this podcast has never been easier and I’m including information on how to send a question my way in the show notes and on the written transcript of the podcast. Thanks so much for listening! 

Published by Nate Zeisler

Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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