One of the first steps to being more productive with email is limited the influence it has on your life. There are a few basic steps that help put email back in its place as one of a number of communication channels rather than letting it be the shaping force in your day’s agenda.

Check email only at designated times

Designate a few times a day where you will check and respond to email. Put those times on your calendar. Use that time to batch respond. Resist the urge to check your email whenever you’re bored or trying to avoid other work. This may be more difficult than you expect. It was for me.

If you need some motivation to take this step, consider putting a piece of paper on your desk and making a checkmark every time you check your email or you can go high tech and use an app like Rescue Time to see how you’re spending your time. Many people are surprised by just how often they’re checking their mail without even thinking about it.

Turn off email notifications

Those little alerts popping up on your phone and your computer destroy focus. They lure you off task and into the land of email where stress increases and actual work goes to die. How many emergency emails do you get a day that need instant responses? Create better paths for emergency communications so you don’t have to keep wandering into a world designed to distract you.

Use the tools

Email sites/programs have a number of built-in-features to help you deal with email better. The following sections will be specific to Google Mail because it’s VCU’s enterprise solution but the concepts are available in a variety of other mail programs/sites.