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I'm considering having a once-a-week `no-email' day, so that would be one working day on which I set my out-of-office and don't look at an incoming email for the whole day (with the idea that I'd focus on big projects). Are there any generally accepted trade-offs that might occur for doing this?

(I'd be starting from inbox zero so there would be no people who are already waiting for a response)

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5 Answers

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I routinely do "email-free" 1/2 days, which I find works better than full days given my particular work situation. Of course I let my manager and my team know what was going on before just diving in (and they can text me if something is a real emergency).

Because I have a small group of people who send email regularly that I know will generally need the earliest response, I have a couple of saved searches for their unread mail so I can get to them with less friction when I do return to my email (though keeping at inbox zero helps with this).

It sounds like you are already doing it, but figuring out how to minimize incoming mail in general makes mail-free time worth that much more.

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if you setup an auto-response saying that all emails will be answered by the end of next day you should be fine (plus information, who to contact in case if they need an immediate assistance)

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And you need to make sure to clear off some time on the next day so you'd have a bigger buffer to work with if one of those emails opens a new project...plus to answer twice as much emails. If you are in the business of serving customers I wouldn't recommend to do that.

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Checking email sometimes can waste too much of our time especially if you don’t know how to handle it and sometimes it can distract us when working, which lose our focus. One great way to do when checking email is to check it once or twice a day. You could check it in the morning before you start to work and at night before you log off on your computer. This way you could stay focus more on tasks and get things done.

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I should probably give my experiences since trying this.

The Pros.

  • It's been good for focusing me on the do it now tasks that would have got done sometime in the day anyway - but it's reduced the vauge laten guilt that builds up around such tasks.
  • It's probably an overall improvement in productivity since I can quickly answer all of the days emails in one go (people probably also get shorter replies)
  • Several people (when I do reply) have thanked me for making time for their email when I'm out of the office (because they got the 'out-of-office' email and assumed I'd be out all day) - I feel a little bad about accepting these thanks but appartly people like it... :s

The cons.

  • It's logistically quite difficult because so much of the information I require to perform tasks is also in my email somewhere - this includes documents people have sent me to review, information on context, times of contacts, dates and details, and the much of my own material. Having to log in to get such stuff and avoid looking at my own stuff at the same time is both logistically difficult and just tempting.
  • Although looking though your emails is often procrastination, it's also productive procrastination so I find myself more likely to be watching youTube or similar when on a five minute break - whereas normally I'd be answering/processing a few emails.
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