Do you ever feel like email is the bane of your existence? Me too, but I'm going to show you how to manage email so it doesn't control your life...
"Email is familiar. It's comfortable. It's easy to use. But it might just be the biggest killer of time and productivity in the office today." - Ryan Holmes
How can something so helpful be so unproductive? I'll tell you how...it's the 80/20 rule at play.
Eighty percent of the email we receive is just garbage. The other twenty percent is productive and helpful. It's that eighty percent that is eating up our valuable time and making us unproductive.
In order to make email work for you, it's important to have a game plan. I've got some great tips to help relieve the stress email can cause and stay organized each and every day.
These tips won't work for everyone. Choose the ones that make the most sense for you and I'm confident you'll see an increase in productivity and a huge improvement in how you manage email.
Here goes nothing...
1. Set aside specific time to check and respond to email
Checking your email inbox every five minutes is completely unproductive and your schedule ends up being run by your email inbox. Stop doing this right now!
Block time in your calendar each day where you will check and respond to email. I would recommend checking your email no more than twice a day if possible.
What if an emergency pops up? Nothing in your email inbox is an emergency. If something is truly an emergency the person will pick up the phone and call you.
Establishing a routine is key to getting into good email habits.
2. Act immediately whenever possible.
- Stuff you need to handle yourself
- Stuff you can delegate
- Stuff you can delete
3. Organize your inbox in a way that works for you.
4. Manage non-essential email effectively.
What's non-essential email? Newsletters, marketing information from gurus, and any other information that is nice for you to know but is not time sensitive or pertinent to your work.
All this type of information does is clutter your email inbox and makes it harder to manage. I set up filters for all non-essential email so it never hits my inbox and gets routed to a folder I check on a regular basis. This way I know exactly where to go when I need to review this information and it never clogs up my inbox.
Warning: When you set this up you will be amazed at how freeing it is. Overnight I eliminated 30-40 email messages from my inbox!
5. To receive less email, send less email.
Do I really need to respond to this? That's the first thing you should ask yourself before replying to any email. The less email you send, the less you will receive.
Pay attention to this for the next week and you'll see what I'm talking about. When you thank someone in an email how often do they respond to your thank you? The seemingly quick acknowledgment type email messages we all send tend to elicit responses, creating a lot of meaningless email messages back and forth.
6. Take the Hemingway approach in your email responses.
Hemingway had a very distinctive style in his writing. It was simple, direct, and unadorned. We've all received email messages that were like novels, and we've all sent them before too.
Keep your email messages short and sweet, communicating only what is necessary. This makes writing email much quicker and will save you a ton of time. Need help with this? Try out the Hemingway App to make your writing bold and clear.
7. Create template emails.
How often do you find yourself writing the same email message over and over again? Most of us have at least a few messages we send like this every week. Stop reinventing the wheel every time!
Instead, create an email template you can use over and over again. In Gmail, they call these "canned responses" and they save a ton of time! You can do the same type of thing in Outlook.
For example, I use an online scheduling service that gives people access to my calendar to book appointments with me. I created a "my calendar" template to easily share this info. I load the template into an email, make a few tweaks to personalize it and I'm off to the races. This one tip will save you all kinds of time in the long run.
Check out this awesome article if you need to learn How to Set Up Canned Responses in Gmail.
8. Limit the amount of time you spend in your inbox.
Have you ever jumped on Facebook with the intention of only spending 5 minutes and an hour later you're still there? I think most of us have. The same thing happens with email and it will suck up our valuable time if we let it.
This tip goes hand in hand with #1 above. Email will take up all the time you allocate to it. Give email too much time and other, more important tasks go uncompleted. Don't let this happen...set an alarm and stop working on email when it goes off. This will help you stay on task and ensure email doesn't take more of your time than it should.
9. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe.
Junk mail clogs all our inboxes. Make a concerted effort to unsubscribe from the messages that aren't important.
When you think you're done, unsubscribe from a few more. I would encourage you to be relentless in unsubscribing from email that adds no value to your work or life. You'll be amazed how much you reduce the clutter in your inbox after going on an unsubscribe rampage!
10. Manage email with a simple plan.
The key is to create an email management plan that is simple and works best for your style and personality...because that's a plan you will stick with. Any plan you create will be better than no plan at all.
10+. Tools to help you manage your inbox.
- Unroll.me : Instantly see a list of all your subscription emails. Unsubscribe easily from whatever you don't want.
- SaneBox : Clean up your inbox and get your life back!
- The Email Game : For those gamers out there, this tools makes a game out of clearing out your inbox.
- Boomerang : This tool offers a number of email features, but one of them is taking control of when email messages appear in your inbox.
- Mailstrom : Power through thousands of messages in just a few clicks.
That's it...now it's your turn to take some of these tips and improve your email inbox for the better.
Did you find this helpful? Feel free to comment below and share.
Header Image Courtesy of Pexels.