Your inbox seems like a never-ending pit of demands; an intimidating list of other people’s priorities.
In a perfect world, you would be setting your own priorities, yet if you’re like the majority of people, email rules your working life and dictates, to a large extent, what you do and when.
So let’s change that with three simple tips that you can implement – and benefit from – today.
Email Productivity Strategy #1: Set Strict Email Rules
I have a very simple seven step process that I follow whenever I open my inbox:
- Open the first email in your inbox.
- If it absolutely needs responding to immediately, deal with it.
- If it can be dealt with in less than two minutes, deal with it.
- Navigate to the next email in your inbox.
- Repeat steps 2–4 until you have processed all emails.
- Return to the first email in your inbox and deal with it.
- Continue to deal with emails until you are finished or have run out of time.
Following the above process achieves three things:
- The most important emails are dealt with first.
- You are likely to have at least seen all your emails before your allotted time is out (see below).
- You don’t waste time on low priority emails when you could be doing more important things.
Email Productivity Strategy #2: Set ‘Time Budgets’ and Never Stray Outside the Lines
One of the reasons many of us are so unproductive with emails is because we jump in and out of our inbox throughout the day, rarely giving ourselves the opportunity to get into a ‘flow’ of dealing with emails.
With that in mind, my second strategy is simple: give yourself allotted ‘time budgets’ to deal with your emails.
Personally, I go for three 30 minutes slots – in the morning, at lunchtime and before I finish for the day. In a perfect world I’ll get that down to two or even just one session – that’s the target I’m aiming for.
Having at least one slot at the end of the day works especially well for me, because the downside to not getting through my emails is simple: I’ll have to carry on working through them beyond the magic hour of 5pm until I’m done.
My advice is to measure how long you spend on emails for the first week, then set down a time budget that’s 20% less than the total time you spent. You’ll be surprised at how easy this is to achieve, simply by virtue of you setting yourself a budget and being aware of it.
The key to this strategy is to actually stick to it. Set yourself a timer if necessary, but make sure that you stop working on your emails as soon as your time is up.
Email Productivity Strategy #3: Measure and Improve
By this stage you have hopefully measured how long you’re spending on emails, but I don’t want you to stop now.
In fact, you should continue to measure your time taken on emails – budgeted time versus actual time. Then I want you to beat your previous bests.
In a perfect world, your time spent on email will decrease as you become more efficient and ever mindful of time taken. You have essentially ‘gamified’ the process which, dare I say it, actually makes dealing with emails fun.
Let Me Know How You Get On!
The above three steps have easily halved the amount of time I spend on email, but I’d love to know how you get on.
With that in mind, please share your results with us in the comments section below! And if you have any questions, comments or email productivity suggestions of your own, let yourself be heard!
Image Credit: Jenni C