Email was intended to make communication quicker and easier but sometimes it’s more of a hindrance than a help. We now spend too long at work checking emails, trying to find old emails, searching through relevant chains for the information you need or trying to delete old mail. It seems emails are put as a priority above too many other business activities
Remember email is a tool to help not a priority. Here are ten tips to improve email management.
1. Process Once a Day
In some businesses, you have to check email several times a day just to stay in the loop but you should only process them once a day. Try marking your calendar and setting your availability to busy to prevent interruptions.
Set aside a dedicate time in your daily life to process your emails. Prioritise the most important ones and then let the others go. Make a system that works for you, making sure you still acknowledge time-sensitive emails. Don’t let your email account run your life.
The 80/20 rule is a great way of dealing with emails. “The 80/20 rule is the idea that twenty percent of inputs are responsible for eighty percent of outputs, meaning you should prioritize the twenty percent high-value emails which will lead to maximum output,” advises leading email marketing manager Angela Bradley, from the Australian Reviewer.
These prioritized emails should be replied to immediately, if not at least get back in less than three days. For the other eighty percent, you can allow yourself to take more time to reply if you do feel the need to engage with them.
3. You Don’t Have to Reply to Everything
Don’t feel obliged to reply to every email, no reply can often say as much as writing out an email. If you spend your day replying to emails just to acknowledge you’ve received them it will take you away from the things that actually need doing. Only reply if the cost of replying doesn’t outweigh the benefits then it’s not worth worrying about. Especially when so many emails are sent out to more people than necessary or are impulsive and often not relevant to your work.
For those you feel obliged to respond to create a folder for the lesser important emails that require responses. Set aside a day once every three days in a week to respond to these emails, it will take away the pressure to reply immediately and quell the fear of ignoring someone.
4. You Don’t Have to Answer Everything Urgent
This may sound a little counterintuitive but a lot of seemingly urgent emails resolve themselves without your assistance. Any urgent email about something going missing or not being able to get hold of a person are often resolved by themselves, wait an hour and see if you get a follow-up email. The follow-up email will declare if the situation has escalated or has been resolved.
This method also trains people to be more self-reliant and to have realistic expectations about how connected their colleagues can be to their inbox. This idea does require some common sense depending on which industry you work in, if you work in customer service and deal first hand with customers this will work differently.
5. Use a Template
There is probably a trend to the things you respond to. Use a template if you find you are repeating yourself on a daily basis. Customize the template to fit the needs of the email and it could save you vital work hours.