Although email is an essential business tool, it can also turn out to be a real productivity killer.
One survey showed that most of us spend more than a quarter of our working day responding to emails.
So we can free up a lot of time by following these seven tips on managing email effectively.
1. Stop checking your email every few minutes
The sense of speed and immediacy makes most of us want to react as soon as an email arrives. But the old-fashioned daily mail delivery was actually much more efficient. That way you can plan your time more effectively and focus on priorities.
So the first step in getting control over your email is to stop checking it every few minutes and start checking it twice a day. That means logging out of your email account at all other times. And if you have a notification alert that tells you each time an email arrives – you need to switch it off.
2. Set strict time limits on the time you spend checking emails
If you decide in advance how long you are going to spend dealing with emails, it stops you wasting time on the less important ones.
It encourages to act on the ones that need attention rather than following an interesting link, reading jokes, or following pointless discussions. And we are generally more efficient when we concentrate on one type of task at a time.
For most people, a limit of about 15 minutes at a time is probably appropriate. Yes that is 15 minutes twice a day – which may not seem much. But you’ll be surprised at how disciplined you can become.
3. Use separate email accounts for different purposes.
It’s often worth considering having different email accounts for different purposes. For example keep business and personal separate. And have one business account for important contacts and another for newsletter subscriptions and mailing lists. You can then check the less urgent one less often.
4. Scan first to decide what’s important
Your email account doesn’t know which items are most important so it serves them to you in the order they arrive. Many people are tempted to deal with them in that order too.
Deal with your email in the way you would read a newspaper. Look at the subject line and the name of the sender first. That lets you concentrate your time and attention on the most important emails.
5. Apply a one-touch approach
The best way to remain on top of your email is to handle it quickly and decide whether to do it, delegate it or delete it rather than spending too much time thinking about it.
6. Use technology to make email management easier
Email has time-saving technology built in but few of us make full use of it. For example:
- create an easy-to-follow filing process using folders and sub-folders.
- use the search function to find old emails.
- set up ‘rules’ to apply specific actions to messages that fit these rules.
- set up autoresponders to avoid having to respond to every email manually.
7. Create standard replies to common inquiries
You can create templates or standard wordings that you can re-use by simple cut-and paste rather than creating the same message multiple times.
So remember that email can be a productivity killer or it can play a vital role in building your business and making your day more productive. It’s up to you to decide which you prefer!