Email does nothing to improve your profitability. Most of us spend too much time handling email that could better be spent on high-payoff activities.
If you truly want to reduce your email time, follow these suggestions:
- Reduce the email you receive. Take yourself off distribution lists. Unsubscribe from information that provides no value. If you still want to receive these items, set up your email program to automatically route them to a different folder.
- Avoid the “Reply All” function. I once worked for a company that had the IT department remove the Reply All button from everyone’s Outlook program. It forced everyone to be very deliberate when deciding who needed to receive the email. It’s okay to drop recipients from a reply.
- Stop using email to coordinate. Email works best when communicating short amounts of information or asking simple questions. If you need to coordinate anything (schedules, documents, etc.), pick up the phone or coordinate face-to-face.
- Keep your messages short. I’m guilty of this sometimes, but I’m reminded of it every time I have to read someone else’s long email. Be succinct. Be decisive and to the point.
- Keep each email to a single topic or question. Have you ever sent an email asking three separate questions, and only one question was answered? It’s not the other person’s fault. It’s easy to answer one question and forget the others before hitting send. If you have more than one question or topic, send a separate short email for each one.
- Be intentional. Turn off notifications and close your email program. Schedule specific blocks of time for email and let others know what time you check it. A client of mine put a note in her signature that she only checked email at 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. This will greatly improve your productivity by reducing distractions.
- Handle each email only once. Follow the four D’s (Delete, Do, Delegate, Defer). If no action is needed, delete it or file it. Will the action or response be only a couple minutes? Then do it. Can you forward it to someone else to handle the task? If you can delegate it, do so right away. Finally, if the action is something only you can complete and it will take more than a couple minutes, defer it and deal with it only after you have processed your email. File it and schedule time on your calendar to handle it.
- Keep your inbox empty. Develop the habit to empty it at the end of each day. Searching through a cluttered inbox saps time and energy. Handle your email inbox like you handle your mailbox at home.
Finally, teach these guidelines to your co-workers and staff. Develop these habits in your entire team and watch your productivity soar!