Breaking the Email Addiction

When I first read “The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris,” I thought the guy was nuts. I could swallow a 4-hour workday, but a 4-hour work week? The guy had to be nuts.

I’m still not sure that everything he suggests in his book is right on the money, but the guy has some serious time-savings ideas for the small business owner. One of his tips that really “popped” for me was checking email only twice a day.

Check Email Only Twice (Yes, Twice) per Day

He suggests picking two times-and two times only-during the day to check email. Why? Because email is a distraction. It’s also an addiction for a lot of people, although these days Twitter might be more of an addiction than even email. In any case, the latest studies show that over 11 million people are emailaholics. With mobile devices, people are now checking email at the dinner table and sitting on the toilet. Ick!

As a small business owner, checking email all the time can really take you away from the important aspects of your business. One reason that Tim doesn’t recommend checking email first thing in the morning is because that plunges you immediately into distraction.

Use Your Mornings to Make Money

Instead, he recommends you spend your mornings in important, money-making projects that will really fuel your business. You need some serious head-space to really work on these projects, and email has the effect of dragging you down into the minutiae of your business. When you’re down in the trenches of your business, it can be really hard to see the big picture, which is where, as a small business owner, you have a chance to really make your business unique and profitable.

Some More Email Tips

Having successfully followed Tim’s advice, for the most part, I have to say that he is right. Here are a few of my own tips that I would add:

– When you do check email, be prepared to act on them. Deal with whatever issues they bring up and get them out of your inbox. If you can’t handle them right away, delegate and defer them. Again, get them out of your inbox.

– If you are concerned about handling any urgent issues that have cropped up during the night, consider hiring a virtual assistant to check email for you first thing in the morning. A quality assistant can respond to people who have emailed during the night, and soothe any ruffled feathers until you are ready to tackle email.

– Consider sorting your email alphabetically by sender when you go to answer your emails. This allows you to handle some emails in bulk. For instance, I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters and ezines. When I’m pressed for time and know I don’t have time to read these emails, I just delete them. Having my inbox sorted by sender allows me to delete them in bulk.

You’ll be surprised how much time you can save by not checking email all the time. It’s tempting to check your email every time you hear that familiar “Ding!” that tells you that you’ve got mail. To avoid this temptation, don’t have your email program open except during your chosen times during the day. As they say, “If you walk into a barbershop, expect to come out with a haircut.” If you have your email program open, expect to wilt in the face of temptation and check it!

Stephanie Valentine has been a small business owner for over 15 years. Her blog,, offers helpful tips on taxes, productivity, revenue generation, and more for small business owners. She also writes about online MLM marketing at

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