Email is something that almost every employee, business owner, and freelancer will encounter throughout their workday. In our increasingly connected world there is a lot of pressure to respond to communications as quickly as possible and indeed there is an expectation that people will get back to us ASAP. However, research has shown time and time again that email can prove to be very distracting and detrimental to overall productivity.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of email and spend less time and energy on this essential business task:
1. Unsubscribe and Take the Time to Block Spam
On the surface it can be easier to just delete the unwanted messages as they come in rather than go through the steps of blocking a sender or unsubscribing from a mailing list. In the long run though, this can result in more distractions and an increased feeling of overwhelmment. For example, it may say you have 30 new messages in your inbox but you only really need to pay attention to 12-15 of those. You still see the number 30 and can feel like you have more on your plate than you actually do.
2. Turn off notifications
You never know when the next message is going to land in your inbox. While working on a project it can be very distracting to have an email suddenly flash across your screen or hear a ‘ding’ letting you know there is a new email that just landed in your inbox.
3. Set Aside Specific Times
Rather than responding to emails as they come in, it can be better to set aside specific times for going through emails. You may go through them once at the beginning of your workday, once before your lunch, and once at the end of your work day. You may want to check specific folders at certain times. All of this depends on the demands of your role and how much email you receive.
4. Respond On the Go
When you’re not focused on getting a task done feel free to check and fire off quick responses to emails in your inbox. While you may not want the distraction while you’re trying to put together a proposal, it can be a welcome distraction when waiting in a bank line up.
5. Implement Rules in Your Email Client
Most mail applications will allow you to stipulate how you would like incoming messages processed. You can have them forwarded to different folders, recipients, or even have them launch specific applications. Some mail applications enable you to add your own scripts for actions that go outside of the scope of what they’ve provided.
6. Use an Internal Office Instant Messaging Tool
Many businesses and organizations develop the habit of sharing short messages through email. This can result in checking your email more than necessary and a cluttered inbox. If there’s a need to have your staff be able to communicate with one another virtually there are many office chat tools available at very reasonable prices.
7. Pick Up the Phone or Have a Face-to-Face Meeting
Sometimes email is not the most effective form of communication. It can make a conversation that should only take 5-10 minutes drag on for days. It’s important to realize when email is slowing you down and pick up the phone or schedule a meeting.
8. Use the TAR Principle
TAR stands for ‘Trash’, ‘Action’, or ‘Reference’. It’s all about getting your inbox down to as few emails as possible. So for every email that lands in your inbox ask yourself ‘Can it be deleted?’ If not, then ‘Can it be referenced’ or ‘Is action required?’
9. Be Strategic With Your Response Time
Replying right away isn’t always the best thing to do. When it comes to sales and inquiries the quicker the response the better as you are trying to secure the lead. In other cases simply responding within 1 business day is sufficient and won’t cause people to develop an expectation that you will reply immediately.
10. Integrate Your Email With a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool
To better be able to log your communications with a particular contact and retrieve them later it is essential that you integrate your email with a CRM tool such as Salesforce or High-rise. This can save lots of time and prevent communications from being lost.
11. Streamline Processes That Are Currently Being Done Through Email
While you can streamline the emails themselves there are some things that simply should not be done through email. Examples include things like order processing, submitting hours etc. Many of these things can be done more efficiently and effectively through a commercial software application. If there is not a commercial application that is a perfect fit there are companies like Gravit-e that can build and integrate custom software solutions that are tailored specifically to your needs.