If you are aiming to be more productive, then it can’t have escaped your notice that one of the biggest time stealers is email.
I’m guessing you probably receive over 150 emails every day all with mixed time frames. Some you’ll need to action immediately, some you’ll need to reply to later, some are for information.
There are so many tips on managing emails, here are a handful of the key ones. A couple might be really obvious, yet a number of our colleagues still have not grasped the fundamentals of email management.
1. Don’t spend your whole day sitting in your email inbox, unless your job is to react immediately to every email you receive. (e.g Orders, Customer Services).
If all you do is sit in your email inbox answering email, you don’t have a creative publishing job, you have a job where you answer emails.
2. Turn off notifications. When you have email notifications turned on, whether it is a sound, a pop up, or an envelope symbol, it is a distraction. It stops you focussing on what you need to be working on. It might feel scary at first not knowing what is entering your inbox, but after a while you’ll find it liberating.
Think about it. When all people had was one postal delivery a day, they’d open the post, sort it, and then spend their time elsewhere. Why should opening email be any different? Even if you have a busy role where so much comes in via email, you can still pick and choose the times you read them. Some of my clients work best by only looking at their email at scheduled times during the day. (First thing in the morning, 11.30, 14.30, 16.30 and a quick glance 15 minutes before they leave, seems to work well). It means they can focus on the task in hand, even if it is answering another email.
3. Use as many Email tools as you need to sort things before you action them. Every email programme now comes with a variety of tools such as colour coding, tags or filtering. Use as many as you need to make things easier. You might colour code emails from some senders, so you can spot them first. Or you can filter emails that are new enquiries or minutes of meetings into a separate inbox. For example, every new booking or enquiry received, goes into a separate folder, so I can act on it promptly. I also colour code emails, so once I take you on as a client, all your emails arrive in blue. This allows me to prioritise client emails over others.
4. Every time you read your new emails, respond to any email which will take you less than 2 minutes to answer. Then remove it from your inbox.
There is only one caveat to this. If the email makes you feel angry or it is a complaint then you need to pause and send a well thought out response. [This is also why you should avoid reading emails after you’ve left for the day. Otherwise you might dwell on negative thoughts rather than focus on what matters: you]
5. When you’ve a backlog of email, there are lots of different ways to reduce this down. You might sort by subject or sender, so that you can thin out what needs to be answered first. You could also flag everything that has a deadline, so they take priority.
If every single email remaining in your inbox needs to be actioned, then operate a 5 from the top, 2 from the bottom system. So you answer 5 of the newest ones and 2 of the oldest. This will help you feel like you are moving forward, rather than if you only answer the oldest or the newest.
But don’t keep reading and re-reading the same old emails. Read and then action. Read and then action. Read and then action. That is how an email inbox gets cleared. (We’ll talk about procrastination later!).