We get a lot of feedback from customers that inboxes are easily flooded with emails and it causes stress simply trying to get through it all. Creating good email habits is key to productivity improvements - not just for you, but for those you’re sending to as well. First, some email behaviours to avoid:
Using meaningless subject lines.
People scan email titles to work out what’s most important to read first. Your email can get lost in a flooded inbox if the title doesn’t grab their attention. Make your title clear and informative.
Overusing email for a complex issue.
For really complex issues, a phone call or meeting may be better, with email follow-up to confirm actions.
Overusing email for quick questions.
Is it really necessary to use email to determine if someone’s ready to leave for lunch or if they have 5 minutes to meet with you? For quick and easy items, consider other options like Skype for Business, the phone or actually going to their desk.
Assuming just your email message is sufficient.
Email is but ONE channel of communication. If you don’t get a response in a timely manner, don’t just stand by and do nothing. Follow up!
Clicking Reply All.
Double check who you’re replying to first, I think we’ve all made this mistake when meaning to only address one person on the email chain.
Hitting send before you’ve proof-read.
We’re always told to ‘think before we speak’, well we should also ‘think before we send’. Written communication is easier to misinterpret, so make sure you have really read your email. Once it’s sent, it’s sent!
When you’re really busy and flooded with emails, some of the tips below may help.
Set an email schedule for yourself.
Make it a rule only to check your Inbox during these times. For example, only check emails in the last ten minutes of each hour, or only check emails twice an hour. Whatever works for you, make a rule and stick to it.
Don’t have your email alert on.
E.g. the icon in the taskbar, the “toast” pop-up or the sound for new arrivals. This will simply distract you while you are working and interrupt your focus.
Deal with each email as soon as you read it.
Flagging an email and going back to it to send your reply later makes double the work. Every email should either be:
- Responded to at the time
- Deleted if it is irrelevant
- Delegated to someone else
- Filed away
- Have time booked in your calendar to deal with if it can’t be responded to then and there
Use the tools available to you.
Programs like OneNote are great additions to email to help keep track of information and help manage time. Research the tools available to you and use those that suit your working style.