Business communication used to be centered around in-person meetings and phone calls made from a landline. Fax was all the rage for a period of time, but nothing has really impacted professional communication the way email has. Not only does email make messaging easy and convenient, it allows professionals to work from just about anywhere – in office, remotely or even on the road.
Today, approximately 70% of Canadians own a smartphone1, giving them access to their email nearly all the time. This has changed the way we communicate and the way we work, but also presented new challenges. Here are our tips for email management – if you have a point to add to this list, please share it in the comments on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Schedule in time for email communication
Professionals schedule in time for meetings and to work on projects, but often overlook the time needed for communication. It’s not uncommon for an executive to receive hundreds (if not thousands) of emails in a single week. Some receive that many in a single day! To best deal with this constant onslaught of messages, try tackling email with a process. Set specific blocks of time every day to read and reply to email communications. This may be twice a day or every 90 minutes – it depends on your workload and approach – but should be consistent. The goal is to focus on communications in one block of time and distance from them all other times, setting the stage for more productivity.
Cut down on distraction and lost time
Want to get more done in the work day? Turn off email notifications that frequently interrupt and distract from other work. It can take an average of four minutes to get back on track after a single interruption – that time adds up very quickly1. By addressing email only during key times, as noted earlier, a person can optimize their communications and their output of work.
Clear your inbox – and your mind
An inbox with 10,000 emails would overwhelm anyone. While it’s smart to retain key messages for future reference, try deleting unimportant emails as soon as they are no longer needed. Make quick decisions and act immediately so you can move on instead of flagging and/or saving messages for any added length of time. Save older yet important emails in clearly labeled folders so they are out of sight but accessible as needed.
Use a system to identify messages that require follow-up (for example, by star or colour code). This enables professionals to go through email folders the same way a person sifts through a physical file folder. Rules are a powerful feature of Microsoft Outlook that can be configured for simple actions like auto-filing emails from a recurring sender or with a recurring subject line all the way to highly complex and customized rules than can perform multiple actions automatically. Free Microsoft Office tutorials are available online in short specific segments that enable quick learning and implementation of these life-changing features. Advanced learning is also available for anyone wanting a deep dive.
Finally, limit the amount of unnecessary emails that fill up an inbox by unsubscribing from unwanted or irrelevant websites – and, if those messages might be important to you and your lifestyle, then consider re-subscribing with a different email address specifically for those subscriptions. This helps to keep those messages completely separate from those that require your immediate or daily attention.
Clear your inbox; clear your mind.
Did you find these tips helpful? Please share this post with a friend, colleague or relative who may also benefit.