What did we all do before the days of email? After all, it once took days to obtain information that can reach us in mere seconds. Email is far less intrusive than something like a phone call, and it is remarkably convenient. It empowers us to get things done from almost anywhere because it can all happen in the palm of our hand (i.e. via smartphone) as well as via computer.
However, email can also be a real problem for productivity. After all, as the McKinsey Global Institute discovered, more than 25% of the average worker’s day is spent reading, answering, or organising email. They also found that it is the second most time-consuming task after the worker’s role-specific tasks.
And though we might feel that others will receive far more email than ourselves, we each get hundreds of these electronic communications each day, and many get thousands of messages in their “inbox” folder. As the experts from Entrepreneur Magazine said, our inbox becomes cluttered, “filled with old, unopened or unimportant messages — [and] will not only frustrate you. It will prevent you from maximizing your time and distract you from other obligations.”
This means that it pays to create an effective strategy for managing emails – those already received and incoming messages, too.
Rules for Controlling Email and Preventing IT from Controlling YOU
- Choose an “email reading” time each day
You may find it tempting to go to your email at least once or twice an hour to see if anything new has surfaced. You might also allow your email provider to “push” notify you via alerts and even sounds on a smartphone or computer desktop.
Rather than allowing this sort of ongoing disruption, it is best to disable all such notifications (audible and visual), and instead block out a period of time (a few, if needed) each day and use that to check and manage email.
The productivity expert and best-selling author Tim Ferriss says that you should also create a stock answer to all incoming emails and use it as a response during your “non-emailing” hours each day. You might have your email auto-respond a message about being away or busy and then offer the time of day when messages will be reviewed and managed. For example, you can create an auto-response that reads “I am currently checking and responding to e-mail twice daily at 12:00 pm and 16:00 pm and will get back to you at those times.”
- Never leave an email to be dealt with “later”
When we leave an email alone to deal with at another time, it is likely to sit there, neglected, for a long period of time. Instead, always take action on the message. Reply to it, delete it, put in a file or folder, archive it…do whatever it takes to get it out of the Inbox and addressed properly. This also frees up brain power by not having to remember all the emails you need to get back to.
- Categorize, Filter, and Label
All email services allow you to organise with tools that include labels, folders, and more. Use these to make managing emails a seamless operation. While you’ll likely delete a fair share of the messages when you need to organise correspondence, there is nothing easier than a system of files that allows you to just categorise, sub-categorise, and easily retrieve your messages.
TIP: The search functions are so sophisticated you could even skip this step.
- Use Unsubscribe
It is profound just how many of us fail to make that single, small gesture that eliminates unwanted messages. Clicking the unsubscribe option at the bottom of an email, and following the necessary steps, can allow most of us to clear a lot of garbage or useless information out of the inbox.
- Turn off Notifications
You do not need to know exactly when an email gets to your inbox. This distraction is taking you away from the work that is more meaningful. Go into options and turn them off.
Take these four simple steps today and you’ll find that your daily level of productivity climbs as your inbox becomes more manageable.