Making Time for Coaching: Practical Tips for Clearing the Email Clutter

One of the most common questions we get asked in our coaching programs is ‘How do I make time for coaching conversations’? It would appear one of the biggest ‘blockers’ to these conversations is the time spent dealing with emails.

How do we manage emails and the associated tasks so that we create time for the more important role of building relationships with the people we need to coach and ensuring the clear headspace so that we can be fully present when we are in those coaching conversations?

Across years of experience coaching many hundreds of clients, a consistent ‘Goal’ identified by many is -
"I need to make more time to build relationships with my team, colleagues, family and friends."

We are all different so finding what works for you will be an individual journey. Those of you whom have experienced the benefits of coaching will know that what works for one person will not necessarily work for another. What DOES seem to work is exploring ‘Options’ and finding aspects of someone else’s approach that sits comfortably with you. Here are a few of things I have found very helpful over the years; perhaps my approach may just help you design a process that works for you…now and in the long term.

Be positive!

Approach your inbox with an open mind. Your inbox is not your enemy, in actual fact it is a key to a results driven and organised workplace. Who would have thought that something as simple as managing my inbox would result in a massive ‘shift’ in my enjoyment, productivity and relationships within my workplace and in my personal life?

Be disciplined!

There are as many ‘systems’ for managing emails as there are people. Central to my personal productivity and organisation is my diary. Some of you may use electronic and phone calendars, for me, what works is a combination of both. Find what works for you…but I do suggest some way of recording tasks is central to this approach. I have constructed my diary in two parts for each day.

  • Appointments
  • Tasks

I find a diary is portable and easily accessible when I need to note tasks and manage the priority list. I can also see my day at a snapshot glance. I also find some ‘therapeutic’ value in physically placing ticks against completed tasks. This system works for me; however I have seen many clients who effectively use electronic task lists such as Evernote and the like. A key personal benefit of whatever system you adopt? Not waking up in the middle of the night with those, OMG moments, I forgot to do…..

Be methodical!

Whatever system you use be methodical in your approach. Find the sequence that works for you and stick to it. What works for me is:
  • I list all tasks big and small on the day I plan to complete them.
  • I number the task as I enter it and that number is used when I assign the task to a given block of time in my diary. For example, I may place task number 4 at 10am and task number 2 at 3pm.
  • Be realistic when allocating these tasks. Like most people, much of my calendar is blocked out for full day appointments and therefore on such days, I don’t list complex tasks. When I choose a block of time to assign a task, I make a decision on the amount of uninterrupted time that task should need and link this to my electronic calendar. This way, my staff who have access to my calendar can see I am not available.
  • Train anyone else who can make appointments on your behalf, to absolutely respect your own calendar appointments…particularly when they are for “me” time such as completing tasks!


Manage your time REALISTICALLY!

The second aspect of this strategy is managing daily emails. I live by emails. I encourage my team, clients and contacts to use emails with me. This is the system I use:

When I open an email, I decide whether I can deal with it straight away.

  • Those that cannot be answered easily, I note the associated task (allocating that all important number) that may be required in my task list in my diary.
  • I allocate this numbered task to a specific time on a specific day using the task number that correlates with the day it is entered.
  • I also note in my calendar the location of the file that the email is saved to.
  • I don’t leave the email in my inbox. I file it and reference the email in my task list.
  • My inbox does not have emails that have been read remaining it. Your inbox may never be empty but at least it will limit the amount in there. While I would love to think I could have a zero inbox I would also like to think I will have a six pack set of abs! I have accepted the compromise for both.
  • For those of you with the colleagues or clients that send those ‘follow-up’ emails making sure you got the email that you have already received my tip would be to acknowledge receiving their email and advise them that you have allocated the assigned date and time to be back in touch with them. You will find once people get used to your methods and are confident you will be back in touch with them, that those second follow up emails will cease to exist.

For me, managing my day so that tasks get done and emails are not seen as an unnecessary intrusion has meant that I have far more time for the more important parts of my job which is building and retaining relationships with my team and of course…coaching.

The value and reward I am seeing in having those all-important conversations with my staff is the driver for me to be relentless and obsessive with task and email management. Find what works for you and give it a go. Explore the Options extensively, and choose the ones that work for you. Be positive in your approach and never give up.

Of course, you probably know some of this and still have trouble implementing strategies you know can work. That's where a coach can provide challenge and support – helping to overcome inertia and keeping you accountable until new Habits are in place.

Coaching Resource Library