This is a guest post by Niraj Ranjan Rout, Founder of Hiver, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool.
If you are blaming email for damaging your productivity, you are not alone.
Over 100 billion email messages are sent and received every day. Email occupies 23 percent of the average employee’s workday, and that average employee checks his or her email 36 times an hour.
The good news is that there are practical and proven ways to help simplify your daily email routine.
Here are 5 ways your inbox is damaging your productivity & how to beat it:
1. The Post-Vacation Avalanche
Do you dread facing the avalanche of emails waiting in your inbox after a vacation?
Trying to respond to all of them at one go will take up a lot of your precious time (which you need to dedicate to other pending work). However, if left unattended, you might miss out on important information or delay responding to vital emails.
So what’s an easy solution?
Try email triaging. (I use this method frequently, and with great results.)
It’s a smart technique to quickly conquer an overflowing inbox. Here’s the exact steps to go about it:
- Give a quick look-over all your unread emails to have a high-level grasp of what’s there.
- Then start deleting unwanted emails such as promotions, sales emails, spam, etc.
- Next, start responding to emails which can be tackled within 2-3 minutes (Use the 2-minute rule).
- Move the emails which you have responded to and won’t have any follow-up conversations to the ‘Archive’ folder.
- Move the emails for which you will have follow-up conversations to the ‘Follow-up’ folder.
- Transfer the emails for which you cannot respond right away (either because they will take longer than 3 minutes or because you need further information before responding) into the ‘Hold’ folder.
This is a quick way to deal with a high volume of emails in an organized manner. The key here is to actively prioritize your emails and use simple sorting to deconstruct the process into manageable chunks.
2. The Delegation Deluge
If you are a project manager, you usually assign and delegate tasks to your team on a daily basis. Typically, you would do this by forwarding a client email to a particular team member and asking them to do the task.
This is easy enough if only one or two tasks need to be delegated. However, if you have a large team and need to assign several such tasks every day, it can be quite time and energy consuming to both assign and track these tasks.
Email is an effective tool for communication, but it’s just not cut-out to be a collaboration tool. Yet, we often use email to assign tasks and delegate work.
Using collaboration tools that work in sync with your emails is an effective solution to this problem. For instance, your customer support team can set up a shared mailbox like Hiver that allows them to assign a task with a click of a button and track it easily.
Effective collaboration is important if your team has to function well and relying only on email to work with your team can be detrimental to your productivity.
3. The Information Bombardment
Wherever we go online, we tend to submit our email addresses to download an e-book or get additional information on products and service. Naturally, we end up subscribing to wanted as well as unwanted newsletters that start bombarding your inbox every day.
How do you prevent your inbox from getting cluttered with useless information?
Here are 4 easy steps:
- Take some time to unsubscribe from as many newsletters as possible. Keep only those which truly interest you.
- Take advantage of features like folders to keep your inbox organized. For instance, create a separate folder for social engagements, another folder for team meetings and so on.
- Roll all your email subscriptions into one email using me – a handy tool. You can also set the exact time at which this rolled up email hits your inbox.
4. The 5-Minute Addiction
Another major reason email sucks your productivity is simply because it is so addictive.
Admit it, there have been times when you checked your inbox several times within a few minutes just to see if that important email had arrived.
Many of us check email the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning and several other times throughout the day.
Here are 3 ways to help you overcome this addiction:
- Turn off the notifications so that you will not be tempted to open your email every time you phone beeps. This step alone will dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend over email.
- Schedule 3-4 email check-in times in a day and check your email only at those times. This might be difficult at first, but if you are persistent in trying to execute it, it will soon become a habit.
- If you find it hard to stop yourself from checking your inbox then use tools like Inbox Freeze to pause incoming mail for chunks of time.
5. The Scaling-up Bottleneck
Say you are a business that is all set up to scale. You have planned out every single aspect of your scaling up strategy except for one minor detail which is email. The truth is, managing emails is the last thing that you are thinking about in terms of scaling up!
As frivolous as this might seem, as you scale-up you will end up spending a frighteningly high amount of time responding to emails.
For example, the higher the number of people you reach out to for business prospects, the larger the incoming email volume will become. Ultimately, as a founder/ leader, you might find yourself wasting away hours sorting out important emails and responding to them.
Some ways you can mitigate this problem:
- Get a virtual assistant – allows you to spend more time on important tasks and emails and leave the smaller exhausting tasks like setting up appointments, sorting through emails etc. to a VA.
- Setting up ready-to-go email templates for several use cases and scenarios can save a lot of time.
- Make use of automated replies to mitigate the problem of increased email response time.
- Setting up rules and filters to prioritize emails.
- Using email rerouting to automatically direct emails to the right person; making use of Gmail shortcuts to navigate faster, etc.
Remember that all these tricks, tips, and tools in the world can only help you to some extent. Pairing these smart tools with some amount of self-discipline is the key to conquering your email and stopping it from eating away your precious hours. So, stay aware of these 5 ways email can kill your productivity and make sure to take proactive steps to mitigate these problems.