Improving email productivity to make the most of our time
Though it burst onto the scene as a productivity tool, email became anything but: according to McKinsey, the average professional currently spends 28% of the workday reading and answering email, more often than not, unwanted email. For the average full-time worker in the U.S., that amounts to 2.6 hours spent and 120 messages received per day.
How has something that was supposed to make our lives more efficient managed to spin out of control?
For one thing, email was perhaps our first digital addiction. If we’ve been glued to our smartphones for the last ten years, eagerly awaiting social media likes, text messages, or news alerts, email was the first digital product that (gasp!) gave us excitement in the workplace.
Old habits die hard: many of us keep visiting and refreshing our inbox, even though we just refreshed and checked it 5 minutes ago.
Further, emails are usually our top priority first thing in the morning: we go through our inbox first rather than work on tasks for the day. Some of us even check our email, swiping away unwanted and unsolicited email right in bed, before our day has even started!
So, what can we do to reclaim our lives from email? There is certainly no shortage of advice articles on the Internet—Lifehack, Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, and PCMag, to name a few—have weighed in on how to better manage email to not only inject some efficiency but also to discover extra time in the day we never knew we had.
Let’s have a look at a few email productivity techniques that are, in reality, time management techniques that can help you find more time—and sanity—during the workday.
Turn off email alerts, and process email only once per day.
This is perhaps the most dramatic way you can prevent email from distracting you too often during the day. For one, turn off email alerts on your desktop/laptop/work computer AND your phone, so you aren’t disturbed constantly.
Then, block off a certain amount of time when you are going to read and respond to those emails that you find important.
For hardcore efficiency experts, try timing yourself during these email processing sessions. Productivity expert Celestine Chua suggests setting a limit for the time you spend in your inbox.
“See how long you take to process, read, reply, and sort through your mail,” she suggests. “Then ask yourself how much of that time is well-spent. Chances are, most of that served absolutely no purpose.”
Delete—first and often.
Productivity expert Jill Duffy suggests doing this first. Duffy advises that when you delete irrelevant messages immediately, you make it easier to see the remaining messages and you can triage the important ones quicker.
“If you can identify even five or ten percent of your daily incoming mail as ‘very likely not requiring action’ so that you can delete it promptly, you'll be in much better shape to start your day productively,” she explains.
Be choosy in your email responses.
Turn out, thanks to a myriad of other communications channels, you do not need to respond to every single email. Chances are, important work-related messages are residing in Teams, Slack, Trello, Asana, or another platform. As such, you can be selective about which emails merit a response and which do not.
If an email from a work colleague concerns a project or task that resides in another piece of business software, it’s perhaps best to carry on that conversation in that other software.
You are using folders, labels, filters, and rules, right?
These email features have been around for many years but it’s not clear whether the majority of people are using them effectively.
There is somewhat of a steep learning curve for some of these more advanced email features. Check with your IT department to see if they have training or at least our guide on how you can make the most of filters and categories.
What can we expect of email management moving forward?
Email has been around a long time, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
It’s still a personalized, one-to-one communication method that people feel ownership of and connected to.
Email simply needs to be more efficient and intuitive so users can find and read the most important messages quickly. Users simply want more control, convenience, and inbox management.
InMoat helps them achieve this.