The Pervasiveness of Emails
Managing emails effectively is a vital part of workplace communication in this day and age. The purpose of emails is to allow for quick communication and an easy-to-access record of your conversation.
However, while email allows you to reach virtually anybody, whether the person you are reaching is in your office or across the world, email seems to universally cut into productivity.
We conducted a study at Appfluence with participants from all across the world. What we learned: emails take a serious toll on efficiency.
Long story short, roughly 75% of participants stated that they spend 1-2 hours on email per day. This is not surprising, but what about the other quarter?
They spend approximately 3-5 hours on email PER DAY!
The study shows that workers in a plethora of industries spend countless, most likely too many, hours in their inboxes. As a result, this not only cuts into time getting things done at the office, but this can be overwhelming as well.
In addition, a report from the McKinsey Global Institute acknowledges that 28% of the workweek is spent on emails. It’s no wonder.
According to the Radicati Group Research Firm, the average worker receives 121 business-related emails each day – and that isn’t including personal emails, spam, and tempting advertisements!
The Biggest Time Wasters: Workplace Distractions
Recognizing the copious amount of time we tend to spend on emails, it comes as no shock that 33% of the same participants above mentioned that email is their biggest waste of time, among other choices such as web browsing, context switching, and meetings.
What if there was a way to manage email overload?
There is. For the remainder of this article we are going to present tips on how to manage email, including email organization strategies and email management best practices.
But, first, here is the full infographic.
How to manage email overload: Gaining Control of Your Inbox
Here are 9 methods to help you gain control of your inbox and become an email management pro!
1. GTD Two Minute Method
In his book Getting Things Done, creator David Allen shares his famous two minute rule.
He states in an interview with Success:
If you determine an action can be done in two minutes, you actually should do it right then because it’ll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it the first time you notice it. If you don’t avoid the question about what’s the next step, lots of two minute items could be done right then.
Allen’s two minute method can and should be applied when answering emails. This way you do not end up ruminating over it throughout the day.
In summary, if you know you can organize a response within two minutes, send that email! If not, mark it and return to it later.
2. Snooze Plugin
Have you ever found yourself deep in your workflow, knocking out assignments on your desk until your email notification goes off? Then, suddenly you are distracted and thrown off. Don’t worry. This is fairly common!
A UC Irvine study found that when participants were interrupted by a notification, it took approximately 23 minutes to get back on track – 23 minutes of valuable time.
Inbox Pause by Boomerang has created the solution to help you regain your time and focus.
Inbox Pause, currently on Gmail and Outlook, will stop incoming emails from showing up in your inbox when you are not in the mood to be sidetracked. Inbox Pause allows you to receive emails at the hours that you choose so you can make sure you are making the most of your precious time.
Unroll.Me is another wonderful tool which will help de-clutter your inbox. Unroll.Me removes the tedious task of unsubscribing from all of those newsletters and subscriptions that have built up over the years.
With the click of a button, Unroll.Me will unsubscribe you from any subscriptions you no longer want to be a part of. Even better, Unroll.Me can also send you a daily digest of all the subscriptions that you still want to be a part of in just one email.
4. Update Your Status
If your email or work platform allows you to, update your status when you are at work. This will prevent colleagues from sending emails, especially about small things.
If you do not have this capability, do not be afraid to be clear with your team and send out an email when you are getting work done and prefer not to be disturbed.
Here is an example of an email to use that Tim Ferriss gives in his book The 4-Hour Workweek:
Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail twice daily at 12:00pm ET [or your time zone] and 4:00pm ET.
If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 12:00pm or 4:00pm, please contact me via phone at 555-555-5555.
5. Schedule a Call
If an email is going to take more than five minutes to write, consider making a phone call. The benefit of this is that people tend to talk faster than they type, and speaking helps to resolve miscommunications that may occur in an email.
6. Add “Checking Emails” to Your Schedule
In many cases, there is no need to keep your inbox open all day. Take a moment and schedule a couple times a day where you plan to solely focus on checking and answering emails.
Three common times that people like to check their inbox are in the morning when they walk into the office, when they come back from their lunch break, and before they leave the office. However, you should makes these determinations based on what your schedule looks like, and how consistent it is from day to day.
7. Create Templates
It can be frustrating to write a similar email repetitively. If you find yourself spending lots of time rewriting similar emails, it might be a good idea to start writing templates and adding brackets to parts that you often customize.
8. Stop Writing Essays
Sometimes it is easy for your fingers to get into a groove and type away when sending out an email. While this might be tempting, keep in mind the person on the other side is likely busy as well and does not feel like reading an email resembling an essay from your college literature course.
For this reason, try to keep your emails brief and direct. If you can’t get your message down to about 150 words or less, it is probably a good idea to try to set up a phone call.
9. Transform Emails into Tasks
It is stressful when you open up an email that presents itself like a task or an assignment, potentially with numerous action items.
Wouldn’t it be life changing if you could somehow add the email and its components to your to-do list? Well, you can with Priority Matrix.
Priority Matrix is a quadrant-based prioritization app where you can input tasks, set due-dates, monitor your progress, and more.
With Priority Matrix, you can integrate your inbox with Priority Matrix, transforming your emails into Priority Matrix tasks.
The subject line of the email will become the name of the task, and email content will be shown in Notes. Any attachments will appear in the files section. Additionally, when you want to access the original email, you can simply double click on the task.
Email is prevalent and a common form of communication in and out of the workplace, but by no means should it impede on your productivity.
Consider tracking how much time you spend on your email per day, when you check your inbox the most, and the degree of distraction caused from the constant dings.
Finally, consider implementing these techniques to manage your emails to help increase productivity and reduce unnecessary disturbances.