Email overload is a major issue for a lot of busy professionals, with the average employee spending up to a quarter of their day reading and replying to messages. Although it may feel productive, some days it seems that the more emails we clear, the quicker the new messages arrive.
Email tends to dictate our day by creating a to-do-list for us, leaving less time for the more important tasks. So, to increase email efficiency we have compiled a list of some simple tricks you can use to outsmart your inbox, reducing the email overload for yourself and your readers.
- Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list – avoid referring back to the same email over and over by creating a separate list for action items, and file or delete the email at first read
- Get a good spam filter – 99% of spam messages can be eliminated before they reach your inbox
- Save time by creating email templates – this prevents having to type the same sentences over and over
- Remove distractions by turning off email notifications – ensure you can remain focused on the tasks at hand by turning off pop up notifications. Avoid further distractions by turning off social media notifications
- Install a software package that sorts your email – SaneBox, Rapportive, Boomerang, PhilterIt, Gmelius, Xobni, are just some of the applications available that filter and sort your messages before you login
- Don’t respond to every email – although polite, replies of ‘got that’, ‘you’re welcome’, ‘thanks’, ‘any time’ can sometimes just add to the email overload
- Keep it short and sweet – if you need to write more than 3 sentences, decide whether email is the best communication method
- Avoid surplus CCs – every recipient you add to an email multiplies the total response time (and contributes to the overflowing inbox burden). Carefully consider who needs to be included in the original thread
- Put key points or action items at the start of the email followed by the content – this helps the reader construct a plan of attack while they are still reading the email
- Leave the ‘To’ field blank until you have finished typing the message – it can be embarrassing to realise you have accidentally hit ‘Send’ too soon
When you arrive at the office in the morning, try not to make emails your number one priority. Scan your inbox and attend to any urgent items, then close you inbox and work on the day’s top priorities. Block out time later in the day to process email and ask yourself, ‘is clearing my inbox the best use of time right now’? And more importantly ‘is the message I am about to send absolutely necessary and is email the best communication method’?
Having a clean inbox dramatically increases your effectiveness. So do it today, clear out that Inbox and reap the rewards of increased productivity – and improved sanity.