Email was initially designed to speed office communication but in reality it has just filled our in boxes with a never ending flood of slightly interesting or maybe useful information that we rarely have time for because we are constantly sorting the onslaught of emails that are coming our way.
If you are going to effectively lead your organization and be present during meetings, lunches, and family gatherings that have become the only place you can catch up on emails, you need to get in control. The first steps to freeing yourself from the tyranny of email:
1) Shut off your automatic email notifications for your computer and mobile devices. The email will be there when you consciously decide to check it. Having a notification on means that you are letting other people's priorities interrupt what you have decided to work on. Research says that it takes up to 23 minutes to get fully back into a task after an interruption. If you are constantly being interrupted by email during the day, you will never be productive.
2) Unsubscribe to newsletters that you never or rarely read. It doesn't matter if they have the possibility of being helpful, get it out of your in box. unroll.me is a great website to get a handle on all of your email subscriptions.
3) Don't check your email 1st thing in the morning. Do your most critical task before you jump into emails. You are more likely to get that task done and the sense of accomplishment will help you move forward all day.
4) Don't use your in-box as a to do list. If you have to dos in your emails, put them in a folder called to do or move them to your task list. If you have items in your in box that you are keeping as a reminder that you are waiting for something, create a folder called waiting. A full in box is a distraction and it is a huge waste of time to look at the same emails over and over.
5) Develop a few set times to check your email each day. Very, very few things are really urgent. Staring with checking email every 2 hours and eventually moving to just twice a day will increase the amount of real work you can get done. Some suggest sending out an auto-responder http://fourhourworkweek.com/category/e-mail-detox/page/3/ letting people know you are checking email rarely, I think that is totally unnecessary and fills someone else's email with junk. If you have colleagues or donors or clients that expect you to respond immediately, let them know the best way to reach you with those requests is by phone.
For more tips on increasing your productivity by getting in control of your email, developing email templates, and completely delegating your email to an administrative assistant check out my guide "Email Bootcamp" here.