Email used to the bane of my existence. My phone was continually dinging, and Outlook beckoning me with its come hither “check me” tone. There are days press releases number 200 hundred-plus in my inbox and I was having to dig through those to get to emails which needed my immediate attention. Let’s just say I missed some plum assignments and a few deadlines. Something I’m not proud of. Quite honestly, I wasn’t getting anything done because of email. It was hindering my productivity to the point I couldn’t function.
What’s a girl to-do when her email is out of control? Since it was a sink or swim situation, and I didn’t want my family finding me face down in a pool of email, I learned to manage my email. These tricks and tips work for me, and I hope will work for you.
1. Don’t check email in the morning. I’ve not read Julie Morgensterns book “Never Check Email In The Morning,” however I agree with her implicitly. If it’s truly urgent, the sender will pick up the phone and call you.
By not checking email first thing, you’ll be able review your to-do list and prepare yourself for the day by prioritizing tasks and balancing your schedule.
2. Don’t check email every time it notifies you. That’s a bad habit to fall into that’s not only hard to break, but also an easy trap to fall back into. Believe me, I speak from experience.
3. Check email at set times. I check my email at 8:30am, 10:30am, 12:30 pm, 2:30pm and 4:30pm. I can generally deal with what needs handling and am done in less than five minutes. Yes, you heard me correctly, five minutes.
If an email needs more attention than two minutes? I put it on my schedule in order to devote my full attention to it and give it the time it deserves.
4. How do I go through my email in under five minutes? Filters. All of my email is filtered by different types of criteria. If it’s from a PR firm it goes into assorted files for PR. If I receive an email for social media business products, into that folder, so on and so forth. By automatically processing these messages, I’m able to deal with items needing immediate attention. The rest are organized and ready for tackling. (A lot of people are using Google Business Apps or Gmail for their email. This post by LifeHacks is very instructive in managing your account: 20 Ways to use Gmail Filters.)
5. Close your inbox. Does that frighten you? Cold turkey frightens most people. I was terrified. A big problem with being connected all the time is there are too many distractions hindering productivity, destroying focus and wasting time.
6. Manage expectations. We’ve all had the co-worker/business associate who sends an email, and if you don’t respond within two minutes, are either calling or pinging you on IM to ask if you’ve received it. Even worse? They come to your cube and interrupt your flow to ask if you’ve got the email they sent regarding the company picnic. Don’t answer them. Be firm. You’re teaching them you’re not going to respond to their emails immediately. Trust me, it eventually works and you’ll be much happier for taking the time to train them.
While I’ve not covered all of my tips for managing email, hope I’ve started everyone off on the right foot. Little steps can generate large blocks of time, increasing your productivity and easing stress levels.