Email can be a constant distraction on your computer, phone, or tablet. To effectively manage your time, it’s best to approach email strategically, rather than something that needs to be responded to instantly. Here are our top seven (7) management tips to help you stay on top of your inbox and stop email from stealing your time.
1. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning
The first thing most people do when they begin their workday is to check their email. Unfortunately, after responding to all of their emails, a few hours may have passed without completing any important tasks.
A better way to manage this is to identify your most important task for the day and schedule it for the first thing in the morning. Wait until this task is completed before opening your email. This way, even if you have many emails to attend to, your most important task is already completed.
2. Allocate time to check your email
Popping in and out of your inbox to check emails creates a stop-and-start pattern of work activity. Each time you check your email you have to refocus, and this wasted time adds up quickly.
Instead of constantly checking your email, you can either deal with incoming emails in fixed time slots—such as after you have completed a significant task—or at set times during the day. Unless you are waiting on an important email, it can be useful to dedicate three specific time slots such as mid-morning, after lunch, and mid-afternoon to check your emails.
3. Turn off audible email alerts
If your computer makes a noise each time you receive an email, your first instinct is to check your inbox. To avoid the distraction and temptation to check your email, turn off audio notifications for email and stick to attending to emails at a time that is convenient for you.
4. Take action
When checking their inbox, many people just read emails without taking any action. Sooner or later, these will need to be attended to. Unfortunately, when that time comes, you will need to do double the work. It is far more efficient to read and respond to emails immediately at the time you have allocated to do so.
5. Clear the clutter
Most professionals receive large volumes of emails each day—and inboxes can become cluttered quickly. Some of the biggest culprits of email clutter are newsletters, professional subscriptions, and news sources. Most of these are unnecessary. Evaluate what you receive and unsubscribe to anything that isn’t relevant. Every website you sign in to with your email address—think Facebook, Twitter, Google+—has notifications enabled by default. These notifications appear when you log in to the respective site, so turn off email notifications to avoid doubling up.
6. Learn to use your email program
Email programs have a number of tools to assist you manage your time efficiently. It’s a worthwhile investment to learn what options are available, such as folders and rules, and how these can help you sort and file information.
Familiarizing yourself with the search function is also useful. Rather than searching all of your folders to locate an old email, simply use the advanced search option in conjunction with good filters to find what you are looking for.
7. Be considerate
Good email management starts with what you send. To avoid wasted time or misunderstanding down the track, review what you have written before you click send. Make sure your message is clear and concise, and that any action you require is communicated clearly.
To make the process quicker, set the objective of replying in a maximum of two sentences.
You should also be considerate of other people’s time when you email them. Does your message really need to be relayed via email? Can you call them, or have a face-to-face conversation instead? Do they even need to be involved in the conversation at all? When choosing to include someone via CC or BCC, ask yourself: Will they value the message enough to make reading the email a worthwhile use of their time? If the answer is no, don’t copy them in.
Email is only one of many potential time wasters that if not managed properly, can negatively affect your productivity. To learn more about effective time management, please click here.