Email is both an essential communication tool and an absolute waste of time. It’s a bold statement but you know I’m right. Email can take you from sealing a major new deal that will take your business to the next level one minute, while the next you get caught in a to and fro exchange that interrupts you multiple times and causes focus, time and productivity to be lost. It’s clear that the positives of email outweigh the negatives so the key is to take control of the tsunami of communications and not let email control you. Simples!
The Holy Grail
Inbox Zero is one way of managing the influx of communications received. The idea is to keep the inbox empty – or as close to as possible – with the philosophy being that it eliminates the distraction that email causes, reduces time spent wading through an overwhelming inbox and declutters your screen which reduces overload on the brain. All whilst giving you a sense of control that extends beyond the screen.
Does this sound like the perfect state of inbox for you but you just don’t know how or where to start? Try the following – it’s four easy actions you can apply to any email that you receive:
Take control of your Time
There was a time when multi-tasking was seen as a talent that everyone should be able to achieve. The reality though is that dividing your attention reduces productivity and wastes time as your brain needs time to reset each time you shift between tasks. What’s this got to do with taking control of an overflowing email inbox? Plenty! Many of us flick between tasks and emails and while it seems like you are in control, it’s actually counterproductive. If you focus on one task at a time, you will actually achieve more in less time so the lesson here is to allocate set time for checking emails.
I can sense some of you freaking out at this thought, but it does work. For some, checking emails 2-3 times a day is more than enough whereas others may need to check every hour. Whichever way you decide to do it, make it part of your plan for how you want your day to go just as you would meetings or setting time aside for major projects. And TURN OFF notifications – this will reduce distractions and reduce your reactive responses to emails that can usually wait until your allocated check in time.
Consider putting an out of office on notifying senders that you won’t be able to check or respond to emails until a set time later that day. You can even advise that if a matter is urgent, they are welcome to call you or pop around to your desk. Don’t worry, you won’t find you are suddenly drowning in phone calls – people will learn to assess whether their matter is time sensitive or of an urgent nature and will learn to adapt to your process as long as you do respond in a timely fashion. It’s all about taking control of your emails rather than them controlling you!
Before you type up that email, think about it. Does this communication need to be an email? Email begets more email so work out whether you might be best served picking up the phone and having a two minute chat and avoiding another massive email trail. By all means, confirm the conversation and the actions required in a follow up email but can you see how this can result in one email instead a six? And you are onto the next task already. See how much control you have taken back? Feels good doesn’t it!
Email should be a helpful and loyal servant to you, not the other way around. Give a couple of the above tips a go and you’ll be surprised at how much more productive you can be and how much your business will benefit from such a simple shift in focus.
HR Staff n’ Stuff can provide more tips and skills with time management training as part of the many HR services we can deliver for you or your team. Call us to discuss your training needs - we’re here to help.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!