7 Ways to be more productive with email
Despite the fact that many people still continue to predict it’s death. Email is still going to be around for a while. Managing our email instead of it managing us is an important step to help you be more productive.
There are many different ways to be more productive and manage your email. These are some of the best ones I have seen and used.
1. Schedule certain times of the day for email.
First off I know this is not possible for people that work in a customer focus or support role where answering queries is a part of their job. In many cases, you can still manage some of the other mail that comes into you inbox.
Many people swear by focusing on email only a few times per day. For example, at 9 am, 1 pm and 4 pm. By leaving email off and not a distraction it allows people to focus on more important tasks and projects.
2. Turn off notifications.
Notifications of new email via a message or a sound is one of the largest productivity killers I know. You are in the zone working on something and then you are distracted by the notification. You then open the email and the next thing you know you are down the rabbit hole instead of working on the original item.
3. If you can deal with an email in less than 2 minutes do it.
This is taken from the Getting Things Done Philosophy. (GTD) Items that can be done in two minutes or less should be done right away. There is no point in returning to an email later on if you can deal with it now. The idea behind this is that it will take you longer than two minutes to re-read the email and do the action then if you had just dealt with it in the first place. For other email try and read it as few times as possible.
Also taking from GTD is to decide on a next action for every email you read. Does the email require an action towards an existing project? Does it’s contents need to be put in a task list? Can it simply be deleted?
Having a system to act upon email is very important to keep you from re-reading the email over and over again. The time spent setting up a system to process email will pay for itself in a short amount of time.
(I did a guide for getting back into GTD that may be helpful)
4. Organizing by folders wastes time.
Years ago I was a big fan of Microsoft Outlook and used it in my corporate role. I would have a complicated hierarchy of folders that I would spend quite a bit of time organizing.
When Gmail came out and I was using it for a while I realized search was a far easier way to find things. Although Outlook’s built-in search was still behind in what Google had in its Gmail product. It still allowed me to find what I needed without having a to spend the time organizing mail into folders.
These days anything that is not deleted is put into the archive folder. For those that still want to organize on a minimal level, Gmail does have tags. If was still using Outlook, everything would go into a folder named for the year. This allows easy archiving into a separate .pst file.
5. Use other ways to communicate when appropriate.
Sometimes an issue can be better handled using another tool or even making a phone call if truly urgent. There are a large number of messaging software like Slack which are ideal for teams of people to communicate a quick message or query.
6. Review your email subscription and newsletter lists and purge what you don’t read anymore.
We have all signed up for newsletters intending to read them. Several months later we realize we have only read one or two of the messages that have been sent and the rest are piled unread. These days it’s very easy to unsubscribe as a link will be on the bottom of most legitimate newsletters. You might also decide that there is a better way for you to review them such as using an RSS reader like Feedly to read these when you have time.
7. Try and respond in a reasonable amount of time.
If you are going to be delayed in giving the sender an answer for a period of time, then it’s worth sending a quick message back telling them that. That way they know you have read the email and they will not start to send you follow up emails that will further clutter your inbox.
Following these tips will help to improve your productivity with email as well as free up time for your projects you want to work on.