Yesterday I created a new intention: single-tasking.

For the next week I’m putting an intense focus on focus.

Juggling everything with MML, Jess LC, and BWI is a lot. Thankfully I have Kiley and Caitlin to help with Jess LC which allows me to focus mostly on the high-level CEO/designer tasks there. But I handle MML and BWI mostly on my own.

In order to guard my personal life and keep work from creeping into my nights and weekends as much as possible, I have set pretty strict boundaries for work. I do my best to regularly stick to a 10a to 5p weekday schedule. I’m not perfect at it, but I do a pretty good job most of the time.

In order to be as effective as possible during those workday hours I have tried to set boundaries on my email. More than anything else in my work/life balance, email has proven to be the single greatest area where I’ve noticed remarkable results.

The less I check email the less I have a problem responding promptly and staying on top of things.

I honestly have no real idea why this phenomenon is happening. But every time I’ve curtailed email, I feel dramatically calmer and more in control of email and work.

This summer my new breakthrough is realizing that my ideal email checking frequency is just three times a day. Or 15 times a week total.

Though I’ve never checked email as infrequently as 15 times in a week yet, I do think that if I can get to that point I would be 10 times more productive in my businesses.

You see very few of my emails, perhaps just 7% of them, actually have something to do with working on my businesses. 93% of my emails are about working in my business.

And though I do need to work in my business to make it function and run smoothly, the growth and  productivity in my workday come from stepping away from my inbox.

So my new intention is to single-task throughout this week and next to reach my 15 inbox checks a week goal.

To be honest, I’m a bit scared to really attempt this… but I’m gonna go for it anyways. (Thankfully I have you here to help me stay motivated and accountable.)

Writing emails to grow the businesses or answering important time sensitive emails do not count in the 15 inbox checks. But any regular check is now going to be part of my 15 a week count.

Here’s what my new intention will look like on an average day: after I write my post here on MML I’m going to check my inbox in order to delete junk emails and answer emails that require a response. My goal is to answer each email right after I read it (I used to read emails all the time and then let them sit there for hours/days before responding). Then, once emails are answered and my inbox is as close to to zero as possible, I’m going to close my inbox and get to work on other aspects of my business. I’ll repeat this same process after lunch and right before ending the workday as well.

In order to track my progress this week in particular I’m going to make a note on my Teux-Deux list every time I check my inbox. So at the end of next Thursday I can see how close I come to my 15 a week goal.

Will I do this perfectly? Probably not. But I think this will be an interesting life experiment and personal challenge that will help me in my business immensely.

I’ll report back next Thursday on how it went!

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. cara

    Good luck! I’m interested to hear how this goes. While I couldn’t cut down to just 15 times a week due to the nature of my job, what I will try to do is cut down to dedicated points of time throughout the day I check my email, rather than every time an item pops up. Working in that fashion is so disrupting, but has become habit. This will hopefully also allow me to see how often I really do need to check it in order to stay on top of things. Thanks!

  2. rita

    i love this! i find that i get so much more done at work if i just shut down my computer. and i know that i would get more done with my personal projects if i shut off my email/twitter/etc… i love the idea of tracking in teux deux… i will do the same next week! thanks!

  3. Lauren

    Jess! I think this an amazing idea! Checking e-mail is something I personally struggle with as well – working a full time job and also being co-owner of a dance studio. The e-mails are constant and sometimes I feel that all I do is answer e-mail and get nothing else accomplished during the day. I am happy to hear I am not the only one:-) Looking forward to trying this experiment over the next week too and seeing how much more I can accomplish:-) (to be honest it scares me to, thinking about only checking my e-mail a few times a day!)

    Good luck!

  4. Corrie

    Not too long ago Iwent through the same realization and it’s increased my productivity tenfold. I had installed a software on my computer called RescueTime, which records what you are doing on the computer all day. I was shocked to realize I was spending close to 4 hours a day on email! I’ve since cut that to an hour a day at set times and am much more productive.

    Another thing I’ve learned not to do is check email very first thing in the morning. It’s a sure way to get distracted. I instead start my morning first thing with an important project, being I’m less likely to get interrupted at that time and get more of it completed than I could in the afternoon. Between this and only checking my email for 30min 2x a day, I’ve been on a roll.

    Best of luck to you with your single tasking! I hope it works as well for you as it did for me!

  5. This is a really great idea. At work I usually have my e-mail up constantly and I check it every single time there is a message. And I have e-mail on my phone the rest of the time so I am always checking it then, too! I think I would definitely be more productive if I limited e-mails to 3 times a day as well.

  6. annie

    what is that task-management software that you’re using in the screenshot?

  7. Susan

    Great minds think alike! I just this month started focusing on single tasking. I don’t get the volume of emails that you probably get, but I used to have Gmail open all the time. As well as Facebook and TweetDeck. Plus anywhere from 10-15 additional tabs of stuff I wanted to read, think about, etc.

    Now I’m going cold turkey. I only open what I need to work on at that particular moment. I’m really surprised, but I find it incredibly liberating not to be so obsessed with checking email now. Much less stress!

  8. Jess

    Thank you all so much for your support! This is gonna be interesting…

    Annie, it’s Teux-Deux! I love it! They have an iPone app (not free, but worth it) which syncs up with it too which is great.

  9. Lori

    Awesome plan! You’re right, it’s easy to say how busy we are when in reality most of our time can be spent on busy work if we’re not careful. This is definitely something I struggle with so I’m interested to hear how your experiment goes!

  10. Kayla

    What program are you using to keep track of your tasks? I’m referring to your picture 🙂

  11. Love this idea! Also looking forward to seeing your post on The Everygirl 🙂 I too find that the less time I’m in email the more I get done when i do finally check because I will then answer 10 at a time rather than rushing to my inbox every time I hear it ping. I think turning off the email notification from my phone and computer would help too.

  12. Sounds like a wonderful idea, Jess!
    At the moment, I only reply emails at one point in the day – which is around lunchtime when the boys are in bed. Has worked well for me for a year now!
    Look forward to hearing how your plan goes. 🙂
    Ronnie xo

  13. Kassia

    Super nerdy question, but what software program do you use that generates the lists in your screen shot? I’m a list gal myself and this looks like something I need to get!


  14. Lauren

    That is an excellent idea, and one I would certainly benefit from if I had that much self control. I’m great at scheduling social media, but email is still a huge challenge!

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