Time management is crucial in the work place. At the same time, how often have you heard your employees say that there aren’t enough hours in the day - even with all the advantages the latest technology has given us? Technology has certainly given us many ways to be more productive than ever before. At the same time, one of the greatest technical improvements has also been one of our worst time sucks. What if you were able to work smarter rather than harder? What if you were able to finish on time every day?
Getting control of your Inbox would be the first place to start. Without a doubt, email is one of the main distractions for employees, whether it’s spam, email pop-up notifications, unimportant emails, or simply just managing and collating what’s important from what’s not.
Here are 10 super helpful tips to help you tame your inbox, get your email processing under control, and improve your overall productivity…
1. Turn off notifications
To reduce your frequency of email checking, disable pop-up notifications and sounds. Nothing kills productivity like the myth of multi-tasking. And having an "always on" mentality around email only drags us down. Dare I say, sometimes I go so far as to close Outlook altogether when I want to focus on deep work.
2. Aim to act on emails only once
Set your goal to be never handle an email in your Inbox more than once. Delete, Delegate, Respond, Do, or Defer.
3. Know why you’re sending an email in the first place
Before you hit “send,” remind yourself why you’re writing the email in the first place. Make sure the message reflects your intent. The more effective you are at sending emails, the less replies you’ll have to respond to. Make sure email is the best medium to communicate the message. If you know it’s going to go back and forth multiple times – STOP! Pick up the phone and talk to the person. This alone will help to reduce your email overload.
4. Be sparing with your replies
Does your email communicate anything other than an acknowledgment? If not, send it to as few people as possible - or no one at all. Get out of the endless chain of “Thank you”, “You’re Welcome”, “My pleasure”, etc.
5. Make it a regular habit to unsubscribe
If you’re subscribed to an email blast and don’t have a compelling reason to open and read pretty much every email from it, then unsubscribe. Make it a habit to cull through your subscribed emails every quarter and purge. The more you can unsubscribe from, the better. The goal here is to increase your productivity and one of the best ways to do this is to reduce the ever increasing level of noise.
6. Use rules wherever possible
Create rules to help automatically process emails wherever you can. I have a “cc’s” folder where every email that I’m not in the “To” field automatically goes. I check it a couple of times a day, but it helps make sure that what ends up in my Inbox is something directed to me. This helps me stay focused on my more important communications. How many emails are you cc’d on because they’re someone else’s CYA? Filter out the noise as much as possible.
7. Turn off Preview Pane
While you may think this helps increase your productivity, in actuality it does the opposite. Keep in mind rule #1 – Act on things once. The Preview Pane goes directly against this mantra. It forces you to have to look at things twice. Turn it off.
8. Keep your folders clean and sparse
Only save the emails that you absolutely need. No need in keep track of every single conversation. And don’t use your mailbox as a filing cabinet for documents!
9. Learn a couple of key shortcut key strokes
There’s nothing that will slow you down more when working on a computer than having to take your hand off the keyboard and move to the mouse to do something. To improve your effectiveness in Outlook learn a couple of key shortcut key strokes. To move an email to a folder, simply press Alt+H, then MVO then navigate to the folder name using the arrow keys. If you want to move a copy, it’s simply Alt+H, MVC. To help this process, organize how you name your folders in ways that will help you navigate quickly with keys instead of the mouse.
10. Keep your Inbox neat and clean
Last but not least, don’t store items in your Inbox. Keep it clean with the minimal number of emails in it as possible. The less items that are in your Inbox, the easier and faster it will be for you to manage what’s in there. The more that’s in there, the more you have to go through, the less productive you will be. Another ancillary benefit is the cleaner your Inbox, the less stressed email will cause you. This should be THE foundational habit for running your email and a HUGE step towards improving your day to day productivity.
What do you think? Do you have any other secrets you use to minimize the time you spend on your email? Let me know in the Comment box below or shoot me an email if you’d like to chat about this in more detail.