Email. Such a neat invention, but for some of us, our inbox is the bane of our work existence. We dread the log-in page . . . knowing the hot mess that lurks on the other side. (shivers)
But what if . . . what if I told you that you could change that? You could, once again, love your inbox? Ok, maybe not love it, but at least not loathe it so much.
What’s the secret? Simplification and organization.
Here are four things you can do now to start your journey to email bliss (or at least email non-loathing):
- Clean out that inbox! Most people tend to collect emails, like badges of busy-ness. It ends up making communication even harder when you can’t find a specific email or something gets accidentally deleted. Take 10 minutes a day, maybe while you’re sipping your morning coffee, and go through your inbox. Create folders to organize the emails you need to keep and be ruthless about deleting emails you don’t need. (Do you really need to keep that email from your Aunt Tilly telling you to have a cat-tastic Friday?) Stop when the 10 minutes is up. That’s key here. We’re not trying to clutter up your schedule with another large task. Depending on how full your inbox is, after a week or so, you’ll have a beautifully clean inbox! Doesn’t that feel good?
- Clean up your email act! How much time do you spend answering emails each day? I’m going to take a guess that you can’t give me an answer because you respond to emails intermittently throughout the day. Stop that! Step away from the inbox! Answering emails as they come in, unless that’s your primary job, is extremely inefficient. Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is actually counter to productivity! When you are doing more than one thing at the same time, it is impossible to give both actions 100% of your attention. This is how mistakes are made, miscommunications happen, and important things get missed. Instead of stopping what you are doing and responding to an email the moment it hits your inbox, schedule time to mindfully go through your inbox. Take a moment to notice who sends you the most emails, approximately how often do you get them, and is there a time pattern (do you get most of your emails at 11:30 am or 2:00 pm?). Consider all of this when you schedule your time. Bob next door might need to schedule 15 minutes every hour and you might need to schedule 30 minutes every two hours. However often you schedule your email time, be assured to give your whole attention to your inbox at this time. Your brain and your email contacts will thank you.
- Still too many emails? If you’ve scheduled time, but you are still bombarded by communication and can’t catch up try choosing the 3 most important emails and spend your scheduled time on them. Filter all other emails into a special folder called “To Do.” Then schedule a larger chunk of time at the end of the day to address these less important matters.
- Keep it Simple. Not every email needs to be an epic work of great proportions. As a matter of fact, many people appreciate shorter communication. Try to keep your emails down to only 3 sentences. Having trouble with only 3? Try 5 and then slowly bring it down to 3. You might even find yourself getting quicker responses when someone isn’t slowed down by unnecessary words.
Extra Tip: If you’re a manager or other authority figure who receives a lot of emails from employees/team members, try the “Daily Digest” technique. Ask each of your employees/team members to collect their thoughts, questions, etc. in a “Daily Digest” email to send to you at the end of the day. Ask them to number each point, put the most important points at the top (highlighted), and to date the subject of the email (Daily Digest 4-14-2014). Our office uses this technique and it works rather nicely!