Email: Friend or Foe?

We all know that email is a business essential these days…how else could we, as consultants, work 24/7?   ;o)

Email, however, is also a huge challenge to our productivity.  How many times have you gone to check email just to see if you had received one important email, only to ‘wake up’ an hour later wondering where the time had gone?

Some of you, like me, may remember the days before email was ubiquitous…when people sent mail, called one another, or walked around the cubicle to have an in person conversation.  Or for those of you in consulting, those were the days when you actually were allowed by clients to have a MEETING to present proposals vs. being encouraged to ‘just email it and I’ll get back to you’…ahhh, those were the days!

I’ll never forget something that Pierre Khawand of People-on-the-Go shared in a productivity class he does: you don’t reach your peak of productivity until you have been working on a task for at least 45 minutes…UNINTERRUPTED.  That may sound easy, but I challenge you to go a whole 45 minutes today on a task that you need to get done: writing an article, writing a report for a client, revamping your marketing material, filing, etc.  If you’re like me, you’ll hear the siren call of your email around 20 minutes, especially if there is something you are waiting on or are in a crucial stage of a client project.

But here’s the deal: ANYthing can survive for 45 minutes without your attention—even the most demanding client.  And the benefits are huge…it will take you MUCH less time to get things done once you give them the benefit of your focus.

One possible breakdown of this strategy is when what you are working on requires you to send an email:  EEKS!  That will challenge your new approach, but you go to your email, SEND the email and close your email program to go back to finish your 45 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not perfect at implementing this simple, yet ingenious approach.  But when I focus on doing this, amazing things happen.  I cross things (BIG things) off of my to do list.  I feel more focused.  And NOTHING bad happens…

Your challenge: try to slot out just one 45 minute work session for yourself today.  And then try for two tomorrow.  Let us know how it works for you.

And for those of you who are already masterful time managers and have control over your email vs. email controlling you: let us know the benefits you have experienced from your efforts!

Note: I felt the urge to check email TWICE while writing this blog, but resisted…and got it done in half the time I thought it would take…victory!

About Jen Berkley Jackson

Jen Berkley Jackson, founder and owner of The Insight Advantage, has extensive experience in using various methods (surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews) to integrate the voice of the customer into all functions, helping organizations increase market share, revamp product lines/services, and ultimately increase customer loyalty and retention.


  1.' Mark Nachlis says

    So… does this work when it is MY job to SELL e-mail services…..!!!!! You need to include keeping the mobile phone in another room on silent mode. We are like Pavlovian dogs when we here the Buzz, ring, chirp, bong or “you’ve got mail” noise. I almost turn my head as fast for a ring tone as I do for a crying child. Great comments….. Mark

  2. In addition to not checking email, I have to not check: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog stats, Google News, and fun YouTube videos. But, definitely worth trying! Thanks, Jen.

  3. Anne-
    So true…so many distractions! But there is a balance to be struck, for sure, because all of those sources make us more knowledgeable and valuable to our clients…good luck!

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