You and I spend far too much time on email. Worse, it interrupts our days, and we’ve become slaves to it. We even check our messages in the car at red lights (which is illegal – you are not even allowed to touch your mobile device while in a car), and it’s become the bane of our existence. If we wanted to (and believe me, we don’t) we could easily spend all day just reading and replying to emails. Sometimes we have, and our lower back has surely suffered as a result (as well as our sanity).

Email has some wonderful advantages over many other forms of communication: it allows attachments, links, photos; it is virtually free, you can access it from anywhere and it provides a permanent record of your communications. But…

When on holiday last year in the UK, the time difference of 8 hours meant that by the time I checked in to see my emails every weekday morning, it was already 4pm in West Australia. I got to see a whole day’s worth of emails in one go, and it took me about 20-30 minutes to check through, delete, save, forward, reply; and then I put them away again for another 24 hours. On returning from holiday, I wondered why I don’t just do this every day. Why not simply open my emails at 4pm and deal with them in the final hour of the day? Or maybe open them at 10am, then close them for 4 hours, check in again after lunch, and then maybe a final check around 4.30pm?

Well, this is precisely what the email experts will tell you to do. Turn it off! Check it three times a day, and get out, they say. Shut down Outlook – CLOSE IT! And while you’re about, turn OFF that annoying email  alert that pops up in the bottom right of your screen and distracts your attention every time a new email arrives, and turn off the annoying beep sound it makes too!

Email can decrease your productivity by 30%. This is time wasted, time better spent doing real work.

What Can You Do: 

  • Mono-task! Put some strategies in place to reduce interruptions. 
  • Check your Emails at scheduled times. Switch off the desktop alert in MS Outlook. 
  • Filter phone calls/Emails by importance – ask the receptionist to put through calls from ‘Bob Smith’ only
  • use software such as AwayFind ( to work out which Emails are important enough to send through to your Blackberry/iPhone and which ones can wait until you get back to your office.

Don’t be an email slave. Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone; sometimes it’s better to meet face to face. You can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all by email. Email’s a great little invention, but keep a sense of perspective.

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About the author

Charlie has spent more than 20 years in Perth’s tech and startup sector, firstly as a founder himself, through to exit, and more recently as a writer, advisor and investor. Originally from the UK, Charlie worked in Singapore before arriving in Perth in 1997 to do an MBA at UWA. Graduating as top student in 1999 he set up online real estate business, running it for 10 years before selling to REIWA, whereupon Charlie ran In 2013, he moved to Business News to lead their digital transformation as CEO, and then worked for the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, funding pre-revenue startups and innovative businesses. He now works in an advisory capacity for multiple tech and other businesses, is managing editor of Startup News and co-host of the Startup West podcast. He also writes a column for Business News on startups. Charlie sits on the advisory boards of WA Leaders, TEDxPerth, WAITTA, the Perth Symphony Orchestra, and the full board of Rise Network.

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