10 hours. This is the average number of hours leaders spend each week on email. Most, when truly honest, will admit to spending way more than that! Email is easily our number one time waster (or distraction) as leaders. Why?
Face-to-face interactions are the most valuable and impactful use of a leader’s time. However, people who were created by God to influence people, cast vision, equip, support and come alongside people, instead feel momentarily productive while dealing with email. As a result, they spend less time face-to-face with the right people.
There is a silent decision made when you choose to email someone. You are saying, in essence, “The way I can have the greatest contribution is through what I write to this person.” If that’s truly the most effective way you can mobilize people as a leader, an owner, a minister, or a C.E.O., then do it! However, I highly doubt this is true.
If you are in a position of responsibility, where you are expected to provide leadership and help move people forward toward a goal, then email may be severely limiting your impact, or at least causing you a great deal of frustration.
Email is best utilized as a tool in our arsenal. Not our primary leadership method.
Once I learned about this 10+ hour average use of email among executives, I was determined to get under the 10-hour mark. Frankly, it was tough and it took several years of changes. I do no more than four hours a week now; and I try to keep inching it down. Some of you, right now, are hyperventilating at the idea of cutting down email to four hours per week. It’s scary for most leaders, and that’s why, frankly, most people reading this won’t do it. However, this is one of the best answers I can give to the question, “How can I do more with less?” Less time on email equates to more time with the right people which produces greater results. The value of you making this change will be proven in the bottom line. So that’s where I encourage people to start: maximize your capacity to get things done with and through others face to face by limiting your time on email.
How do you break up with your email addiction to become more effective?
1. Make a decision before you email someone.
Ask yourself, “Is email truly the best way to move this issue forward?” Because as a leader, you’re trying to move people to action and do things. Sometimes, believe it or not, a ten or thirty second phone call can be far more effective than sitting down, writing it, and beginning this back-and-forth email dialogue.
2. Don’t send it!
Email is exponential. The more you send, the more you’re going to get back and the more it’s going to create. You are creating dialogue with an unpredictable time-frame with every email you send.
3. Delegate it.
Email is usually the last area anyone is comfortable delegating. If email is our number one time waster, though, it needs to be the very first thing we delegate when possible.
Before hiring anyone else or recruiting volunteers to help you put stamps on envelopes or getting interns involved, try to delegate email in different ways. Perhaps you have a capable and trusted assistant or volunteer that would love to help in this way.
Once we have broken up with this email addiction, we can then spend more time face-to-face, more time talking via the phone, more time with teams on a few of the essential things that are going to have the greatest impact on people and therefore the bottom line.