Are you addicted to checking your email? Email addiction is a common problem with one study by Glasgow University showing that 50% of people check email more than once an hour and 35% checking email every 15 minutes. Actual monitoring shows that people check email even more frequently than this. Let’s take a look at some great strategies for tackling this and other problems with email and how to massively increase your productivity with email:
Encourage your colleges and friends to write you less email
This is important. It’s so easy to send an email. And it’s easy to send an email to dozens of people at once. Each email that they send takes up your time and attention. So you MUST train your friends and colleges to send you less email and send you concise email. A great way to do that is this website: http://lessemailsplease.com
Batch process your emails
Checking emails multiple times throughout the day is ineffective because each time you have to stop what you are doing and interrupt your work flow and check your emails. This “multitasking” is ineffective as it stops your momentum and creates a kind of Internet schizophrenia, hoping from one thing to another online.
Instead process your emails in batches, 2-3 times per day Move through each email starting with the most recent, dealing with each one, fully handling that email and then on to the next.
Handle each email ONE TIME - don’t come back to it again and again
Have you ever had the experience of reading an email, thinking, “Ill get to it later, not right now” then later you read it again, thinking again, “oh yeah handle that one a bit later”. This time of reading the email again and again and procrastinating on it really adds up. Instead, read the email one time and immediately decide what to do with it. Handle it then so that you won’t need to read it again, and definitely won’t need to read it again multiple times.
The best way to achieve this is “Inbox zero”. This is the concept that you read you emails and process each one, either archiving it, deleting it, quickly completing any action needed, or putting it in your to do list (and archiving from your inbox) until you reach zero emails in your inbox. When you achieve “inbox zero” it helps you to be more peaceful about what you have to accomplish as you don’t have a whole lot of emails staring at you that you haven’t quite finished with, but don’t have time for now. It also helps to make sure that you don’t keep reading those same emails again and again. Also when your inbox becomes your “to do” list, it prevents you from prioritizing effectively as you have not clearly decided which are the most important to do items to focus on first.
Also if your email requires a quick reply, make sure to reply immediately. Don’t wait and get back to it later. If you can complete the action required from the email in less than 3 minutes, take that action straight away. If the action takes longer you might do it straight away or put it on your to do list depending on the importance of the action item.
Keep your emails to 3 sentences or less where possible. Get straight to the point.
Make your subject line obvious
Don’t reply to a previous email with a totally different topic. For example the email subject is “Re: Accounting meeting” but the topic of the email is about the Christmas party. Instead edit the subject so that it is exactly related to the content of your email.
This is really easy. Gmail and other web based services do this pretty effectively, or you can use a service like Boxbe.
Filter your emails
If there are any emails you receive from newsletters or other updates that you don’t need to read straight away but would like to maybe read sometime, automatically filter then into a “to read later” folder. Get to it when you can, and don’t stress about it. But get them out of your inbox where they constantly seek your attention and cry out “read me” and you subconsciously cry out “not now, maybe later”. Those thoughts of “not now, maybe later” use up a lot of your attention and focus.
Don’t check your emails first thing in the morning
If the first thing you do in the morning is check and reply to your emails you are immediately reacting to other people’s demands on you, rather than proactively choosing what you will work on. Write a list of the most important items for the day and work on the most important first thing in the morning.
Don’t check email on portable devices
We’re going against the grain here as it’s very common to check email on a Blackberry or iPhone. However, just think about how long it takes to type a reply on a Blackberry or iPhone versus a computer. If you can touch type, it’s definitely faster on a computer. Also if you are checking on a portable device you are likely checking multiple times through the day and interrupting what you were previously doing.
There are a couple of exceptions here, one being if your job requires urgent responses to email. In this case you should separate your emails with two emails addresses, one for issues that are urgent, and the other for everything else. That way you can check your urgent emails immediately and batch the other emails. The other exception could be if you really have some dead time on the train for example and want to spend that time checking your emails, in this case it’s not such a bad idea checking on a portable device.
Write better emails (anticipate their reactions)
Make sure that when you write the email you make the outcome that you want totally clear, and try to anticipate what they will reply next, so that you can answer any potential questions they might have in your initial email.
For example a bad email would be “You want to meet about the xyz report?”
Instead you could say “Can you meet about the xyz report? If you’re ok with it I’m free on 3pm tomorrow or 2pm Friday, let me know which works better, let’s meet at Starbucks 53 Avenue”. This saves several back and forth emails where you work out where and when you can meet.