10 Aug The Easiest Strategies to Increase Productivity using Email
Strategies for better email management
Knowing how to be more productive often starts with better email management. Do you struggle to manage your emails? Are you stressed out by a cluttered inbox? Do you often make responding to emails your priority, instead of focussing on more important tasks?
Here at PEP, 37% of our clients report spending more than 3 hours a day in their inbox before completing our program. Furthermore, 48% of our clients use their inbox as a to-do list. Many of us have to monitor and respond to emails as part of our jobs, but it doesn’t have to prevent you from getting things done.
Today we want to share four strategies for better email management to help you save time and be more productive.
1. A time for everything
You can drastically improve your personal productivity by time blocking. Schedule a time block to process your emails, so that you’re not interrupted or distracted by emails when you need to focus on other work tasks. Turn off your notifications and only check your emails at the scheduled time. Depending on your job, it could be once a day, or three times a day.
There are even tools you can use to pause your email delivery. For example, Boomerang is a tool that can hold sending emails for you until a predetermined time of the day. This is especially useful if you want your email to arrive within office hours, to avoid the recipient feeling pressured to reply out of hours.
When you do process your emails (within your scheduled time block of course), respond immediately to those emails that take a few minutes to answer (less than 15 minutes). If you need more than 15 minutes to action the email, schedule time in your calendar to respond.
2. Organise your inbox
If you need to store your emails, create a folder system to organise them. Creating a system in your inbox can help you process emails more quickly and efficiently. Time to complete the items in your folder system can be scheduled into your calendar.
When organising your folder system, it helps to consider how your emails are linked and what titles they may be categorised under. For example:
- ‘Work I must do’ folder – for emails that require more than 15 minutes to answer.
- ‘Speak to’ folder – for emails that you need to discuss with someone, or that you’re waiting to get a reply on.
- ‘Meetings’ folder – for emails that you need to refer to in an upcoming meeting.
- ‘Delegated’ folder – for emails and tasks that you’ve delegated.
- The “Reading” folder is for emails that contain things that you need to set aside time to read.
Find an organising structure that makes sense for your role. Our PEP Public Program includes tips to help you organise your digital world to make it easier to navigate. Keep things simple, and group like with like. That way, you’ll be able to find what you need when you need it. For emails that you don’t need to access, delete or archive them.
3. Automate as much as possible
Automated actions can save you a lot of time. For example, in Outlook, you can use Quick Steps to set up custom actions for repetitive tasks. Quick Steps allow you to perform multiple actions with a single click, such as forwarding invoices to the accounts team.
Another useful Outlook tool is Quick Parts, which stores frequently used text blocks (such as user instructions or sales pitches) or phrases so that you don’t have to retype them each time. Instead, you can quickly access text blocks through the Quick Parts drop-down menu.
You can also set up inbox rules in Outlook that automatically move emails to different folders, which can help you deal with the most important emails first.
For more advanced automation, you can use Zapier to integrate your email client with other apps that you already use. For example, you can automate sending emails from a specific sender to Slack or create Trello cards from new emails.
4. Emails are not the only form of communication
Sometimes, email is not the best form of communication. For example, if you have a quick question for a colleague, consider using chat programs such as Skype or give them a call.
Does your organisation have clear policies on their preferred communication channels different purposes? If so, it’s a good idea to check them. If your workplace does not have clear rules, it could be worth setting up some rules so that everyone knows what is expected.
When you do process your emails (within your scheduled time block of course), respond immediately to those emails that take a few minutes to answer (less than 15 minutes).
For more than 30 years, PEPworldwide has been the leading productivity consultant, and now we have developed a Remote Program to help you and your team build productive habits, regardless of working location.
By Simon Nicholls