I just sent an email to someone who I just met and received the following (slightly edited) response:
Attention: Email policy update.
Partners, Colleagues, and Friends:
In an effort to increase productivity and efficiency in 2009 I am modifying my personal email policy. I’ve recently realized I have slipped back into spending more time shuffling through my inbox and less time focused on the task at hand for my partners. It has become an unnecessary distraction that ultimately creates longer lead times on my ever-growing ‘to do’ list.
Going forward I will be checking/responding to email at three times a day, 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 4:00 p.m. on Monday – Friday. I will try and respond to email in a timely manner without neglecting the needs of our clients/partners and brand identity.
If this is an emergency, and you need an immediate time-sensitive response… please do not hesitate to call me on my mobile phone at <omitted>
This new approach to email management will result in shorter lead times with more focused & creative work on my part for you.
I like this idea. I’d want to have a mechanism to have VIP emails (my boss, my biggest customers, my wife) come to my attention immediately, but otherwise I think it would work great. Anyone else doing creative email time management? Tips appreciated.
This email approach was most notably used by Timothy Ferriss in his book “The 4 hour work week”. The plan is to reduce time spent working through your inbox. Plus, you can use reBoxed(http://reboxed.remail.com/reboxed/) to make sure the most important emails start appearing at the top over time on your Gmail inbox. Apart from that, make sure you use a clever combination of filters/labels/inboxes(Gmail Lab’s multiple inboxes) to sort out important mail from email that can wait. I’m just a student, and don’t really get hundreds of emails everyday, but I hope it helps you.
I’ve been using this approach for a while now. I go though email first thing in the AM. Things I can respond quickly to (2 minutes or less) I do that. Otherwise I hit a hot key and it goes to my task management system (Things on the Mac). I do this same process again after lunch and again at night before I go to bed. All other times of the day I work off my task list in order. I get a lot more done this way and can really focus on what I’m doing. For urgent needs people can call. Remember, email is not IM or other instant reach. There’s no such thing as an urgent email in my world.