Email is one of the biggest time drains in business today. It’s on every device and constantly shouting ‘you’ve got mail’ pulling you away from the task at hand. While I don’t believe we can do without it ... don’t let it rule your life!

Here are my seven steps to help you kick that email habit and increase productivity.


Step One

Turn off notifications, it’s simple but very effective. You might consider doing this while working on an important task, project or even during a particularly part of the day. I keep them on but don't have any sound associated with them BUT if you are easily distracted turn them off!

Step Two

Set aside time in the day when you will check your inbox. I am presently trying out only checking email twice a day and attempting to deal with all email at that time. So far, it has helped to keep my inbox clear and stops me popping in and out.

Step Three

Unsubscribe from newsletters that you don’t read or rarely read as an overflowing inbox can be overwhelming. We all do it, giving our email address freely in return for a download and while there is plenty of great content sent daily it can create a busy inbox. Why not set up an email address just for newsletters or create an email rule sending them to a folder to read later.

Step Four

Already mentioned above rules can be an effective way of dealing with email. You can do this by client, project or interest. It's a way of keeping your inbox clear and your important emails in one place. Why not create folders for ‘to do’, ‘pending’ and ‘finalised’, use labels, flags or colours whatever suits your way of working (options will depend on the email platform you are using).

Step Five

Keep personal out of your business inbox, create a Gmail account if you haven’t got one already for family and friends. I found when personal came into my business email it got left sitting there - when on occasion it was important and required action. Keeping them separate works really well for me and worth a try to help further reduce that overwhelm and to ensure friends and family are never forgotten!

Step Six

Don’t answer emails after close of business to avoid a chain reaction effect and game of email ping pong. I’ve heard it said many times ‘thought I would just send a quick response and then several emails later started to feel fed up by the intrusion’. So don’t allow emails into your personal time and space.

The radical step seven!

Remove email apps from your phone! I can feel your sharp intake of breath from here and only imagine the panic written appearing on your face! Okay, this isn’t for everyone but certainly helps to keep boundaries and stop email from taking over your life.


Don’t allow email to suck you in, take a few minutes to think about how it impacts your day and what actions you can take to reduce the overwhelm and distraction. I would love to hear your own tips for working with email effectively, why not give me a tweet (@BrownBurden).