Email takes up a large part of our time. It was supposed to be the most useful productivity tool. For most of us though, it has turned into major time drain. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Let’s explore the best email productivity tips that can help manage this beast effectively.
Email Productivity Tips
- Establish set hours for dealing with email. This helps avoid the number one mistake when it comes to email productivity. More specifically, the regular approach is to be connected to email all the time. This means that you open up to an endless stream of interruptions that dramatically lower your productivity in everything you do. You may not have full freedom to implement this tip. In such a case, try at least to set time intervals in which you don’t read email, but focus 100% on advancing important projects. An easy way to do this is to book a meeting with yourself. Treat it as seriously as an important meeting with others and don’t check emails until after the “meeting”.
- Cut on unnecessary email reading. Clean-up your newsletters subscriptions, ask to be removed from groups that are not relevant to you anymore, ask people not to “copy” you when it’s not necessary. And don’t spend time on emails you identify as useless.
- Pick up the phone or set up a meeting if this is better suited in your situation. When you deal with a very complex project, issues involving several parties or sensitive topics, it may be better to talk directly to people. If this is the case, pick up the phone or set up a meeting.
- Keep your messages clear, concise and to the point. I’m sure you witnessed those never-ending chains of emails and those very long messages some people send. A lot of times, this is a tell sign that a phone call or a meeting is a better idea. In order to use email efficiently, you need to be concise.
- Set-up rules and filters. Depending on the way you use email, this can be a huge time-saver. You can for example set all newsletters from a website to go to a certain folder, without showing-up in your inbox anymore. In this way you un-clutter your inbox and you can go through the messages in the respective folder whenever it is a convenient time for you.
- Apply the 80/20 Rule. Treat email differently, via giving more attention to the 20% most important ones. This approach should be aligned with the higher-level prioritization you apply in your life. Focus on the 20% of actions, clients, projects that bring you the most benefits, satisfaction, happiness.
- Escape the pressure to react immediately. It is easy to get caught into the urgency trap. You know how it is. You are doing something and you see a notification about an email coming. You then feel compelled to answer immediately. Unless it’s something really urgent though, you don’t have to. You can definitely aim to answer within a few hours to the messages that are related to the most important areas in your life/business. However, take a more relaxed approach in terms of urgency with the others.
- Don’t write emails when you are very upset. It is never a good idea to write messages when you are very upset. You may regret later what you have written. Instead of addressing the core issue effectively, you may complicate unnecessarily the situation.
- Write an email in one go. If you don’t think you have the time to write and finish an email, don’t start it. You will lose more time to start writing it, interrupt and then start over. If you can answer the email in less than a minute do it on the spot. Otherwise, initiate your reply only if you have the time to write it.
- Set limits! E-mail can take over your life and you don’t want that. Since the stream of emails is continuous, the only way to achieve that is to set limits and observe them. Don’t stay connected to your inbox 24/7. Establish priorities, limits and manage the email on your terms!
Apply the tips above and related to this, check out also my post with tips on how to manage interruptions effectively and take control of your time.
Photo by: Sean MacEntee