Sign up for our
Good Company e-newsletter:
November 28, 2012 | Volume 6 | Number 10
November 28, 2012
By Jessica McKenzie Peterson, MS
Do you dread opening your email each morning? Trying to keep up with the demands of your inbox can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. According to a recent survey by McKinsey Global Institute, employees spent an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing email. Effectively managing the time you spend on email isn’t about what’s best for everyone, it’s about finding what works for you.
Here are some tips you can try, or modify to fit your demands and preferences:
1. Set aside time. Identify 10-20 minutes two or three times a day when you can focus on checking and responding to emails, preferably not first thing in the morning, which can derail productivity. This doesn’t mean it’s the only time you can look at email during the day, just that you have allotted time for dealing with it.
2. Take out the trash. If you receive 100 emails a day (or more), odds are, many of them are unnecessary. Begin your allotted email times by deleting the junk mail and messages you don’t need to read without even opening them. Paring those 150 emails down to the 20 you actually need to look at will make the rest of the task seem more manageable.
3. Get mobile. Use your smartphone or tablet to make your workday more manageable. That long train ride to the office or sluggish line at the post office can be a great opportunity to clear out your inbox. Use previously “lost” time to delete junk mail, file FYI messages and deal with emails that require only a brief response. That way, all that remains are messages that require more in-depth responses or follow up.
4. Deal with it once. We are all guilty of scanning emails and letting them sit in our inbox for far too long. Break yourself of this habit. Once you open an email, deal with it. If you can read and respond in less than two minutes, just get it over with. If you’re not sure how to respond yet – put it in a “follow-up” folder and set a due date or reminder, so it doesn’t slip through the cracks.
5. File. File. File. Email shouldn’t linger in your inbox. Set up a filing system that works for you and use it. Don’t make the mistake of creating too many folders – it’ll just get confusing. Three to four folders will suffice. Try a variation of “Action,” “Waiting” and “Archive” folder labels. You can also use a free cloud-based app like Google Drive or Dropbox to upload and save file attachments you may need to access later, from anywhere.
6. Use scheduling tools. Many email clients let you save drafts and schedule emails, so you can draft messages when you are most productive, yet have them sent when they’re most likely to be read. Other applications, such as Boomerang, provide enhanced tools that integrate with your existing email program to help you manage the load.
7. Simplify and code. Use the flagging, labeling and/or color-coding features of your email. Yellow can mean whatever you’d like it to mean, just keep it consistent. If you must keep email in your inbox, make sure you only keep the most recent message with the full thread, not each individual message on the same subject. You can also consider if it’s worth the time to change the subject line of emails you want to file or archive, so the email content is clear, without having to open it.
8. Use the search function. If you know you can rely on the search function of your email to retrieve what you’re searching for, you’ll be less likely to over-save stuff that “might” be important in your inbox or overload your “keep just in case” folder. Archive regularly and use tags or color-coding if possible so you can pull up old emails in a snap.
9. Don’t miss important dates. What about an email that needs to be added to your calendar or task list? Move it right away, don’t let it sit in your inbox. It will take you less than a minute to do this. Just copy and paste – it doesn’t have to look pretty or have the correct formatting, just move it directly from your inbox into your calendar or task list and you can modify it later. Not sure if it’s important enough to make your calendar? If there’s a chance it might be, don’t think twice, just add it, you can always delete it, or ignore it later.
10. Take a deep breath, and hit “unsubscribe.” Unsubscribe yourself from anything that’s no longer relevant to you. That golf club you belonged to five years ago still sending you update emails? Click unsubscribe and you’ll eliminate the unwanted mail, time it takes to delete it and the guilt that comes with knowing you’ll never keep up with it anyway. You could also try an app like unroll.me to unsubscribe from all your newsletters at the same time and roll the newsletters you do want to keep receiving into one condensed message (this only works with Gmail for now).
11. Divert the news. Try to get RSS feeds of blogs, newsletters or other material that’s delivered to your inbox so you can subscribe and sort through it with your Reader instead of clogging up your inbox. Or, create a rule that filters all news items directly to a News folder, so it never mingles with your emails (or gets lost in the mix). If you’re using Outlook, click here for how to set this up.
12. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Do you find yourself responding to the same inquiries over and over, or spending time crafting similar emails quarterly or annually? Save yourself time and mental energy by keeping these emails in a “Drafts” or “Templates” folder and using them as a starting point the next time you need to generate a similar message.
Without effective tools, email can be overwhelming, particularly when employees are expected to be available around-the-clock and respond instantly. However, by adapting some of these tips and testing out technological shortcuts, you may be better able to handle 28 percent of your workweek.
The content provided above is for informational purposes only. The inclusion of any product, service, vendor or organization does not imply endorsement, recommendation or approval by the American Psychological Association or the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program.
E-mail questions or comments to: email@example.com