How I Stay on Top of Email in 33 Minutes a Day

Most of us receive far more email than we want, and certainly more than we need. Many people spend hours each day answering or reading email. Many more feel the weight of guilt about the hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of unanswered emails sitting in their inbox.

Boss has received many email from job candidate

A few years ago, my wife and I traveled to the UK. While we were there, I had limited access to the Internet, especially while we were in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was basically limited to the half-hour I had each morning in a small Internet café. It was there that I learned it was possible to deal with email in 30 minutes a day.

I currently budget 33 minutes each day to deal with business email. You can easily do the same.In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess I only stick to this limit about 70 to 80% of the time.

And I will also let you know that personal, family email is a different matter. Although I don’t spend a lot of time on email on the whole, I take extra time to craft a meaningful exchange family and friends. Frankly, though, I usually try to move those discussions to the telephone.

But yes, I do handle my business email in just 33 minutes a day. Here’s how I do it.

  1. I don’t check email first thing in the morning. Checking your email first thing each day is a great way to derail your agenda, and spend the day chasing the agendas of other people. Don’t do it.
  2. I check email just once a day. When I first started implementing this policy, I was a bit fearful that it would cause problems. I have since discovered that the world does not come crashing down simply because I didn’t check email until 11 AM. By the way, I have experimented with different times of the day for checking my business email I have found that 11 AM Pacific time is just about ideal for me. That way I can catch any emails from my colleagues and clients on the East Coast, and am able to respond to those emails the same day if necessary. This means the recipient gets my response before 5 PM Eastern time.
  3. I keep emails short. My friend Stu McLaren keeps his emails to five sentences or less. While I don’t have a formal policy like that, I do strive for that level of brevity. So far, nobody has written back to me asking me if I would please write longer emails. Now, some emails are long by design – but here we are talking about daily business transactional emails. Keep ‘em short.
  4. I use a digital timer. You’re probably tired of hearing me talk about my digital timer by now, but nothing gets me motivated to work quickly more than a ticking clock. I set my timer for 33 minutes, and then I get cranking.
  5. I use the delete key liberally. Try it. You’ll like it. Not all email deserves to be read. Certainly not all of it deserves a response. If I goof up and delete something I shouldn’t have, if it’s important someone will email it to me again.

Question: what about you? What tips do you have that speed the task of processing your email each day?

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at