So, using myself as an example, once I'd discovered that e-mail was a big chunk - (the fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there, really add up) - what did I do about it?
Step one was I made a decision - I'd try to only read my e-mail once a day. There are other benefits besides the time-savings to doing this:
- less multitasking. When coding, etc, I can focus on just that. I won't have an e-mail popup interrupting my flow.
- when profiling my time, I can get a better measure of just how much time I spend processing e-mail, because it's all in one contiguous chunk.
"But," you say, "that doesn't actually save time! You still have the same amount of e-mail to process each day."
Not true! The thing is most people are habitual e-mail checkers like me, and what often happens is I'd get an e-mail, immediately compose a response and send it, and then my correspondent immediately composes a response and sends that.
Step two was to use the phone more. As fast as I type, I can talk a lot faster. For e-mails that take more than a few sentences, instead of e-mailing my coworkers I call them. (Although sometimes these calls can turn into long conversations about whatever.)
Step three was to just be smart. Not every e-mail needs a lengthy response.
So, with all that, I've shaved about an hour a day off my e-mailing time. Which is huge, if you think about it.
The downside is I can no longer "stay on top of things" - important e-mails that need an immediate response might get missed. So I made sure to tell my coworkers that I was doing this, and if they had anything important to tell me about, they needed to call my cell. (Now I just had to remember to keep it charged.)
Also, something I've recently started doing, because production on our game is in full swing and we need to communicate as much as possible, is filtering my co-workers e-mail into the "Important" box, and everyone else gets shunted off to the "Later" box. This seems to be a good compromise.
Next week (but no promises): David "no open loops" Allen vs. Mary "dump that long queue on the floor" Poppendieck grudge-match in my head.