What would you do if you could create an extra hour a day, every day? Make a few more sales calls, learn a new skill, read a new book, spend more time with the family, have a proper lunch break?
All of these are achievable if you take control of your email rather than let it control you. Most of us waste at least one hour a day through inefficient use and management of email.
Based on a 46 week working year (and an average rate of £20 per hour) this equates to an additional overhead of £4,600 or 31 days each year. Can you afford to waste this level of resources?
To check how much time you are wasting, use my cost of email misuse calculator.
Clean out your inbox
Inbox Clean Out week has run annually since January 2011. But you don’t need to wait for the next event to clean up your own inbox – just check out the steps on my blog.
The top five sources of email overload are:
- Unnecessary email. ‘Who has my blue mug?’ messages, thank you emails, messages you’re cc’d on – not to mention ‘all user’ emails. How much of the email you receive do you really need to do your job?
- Poorly written emails. How many emails do you have to read several times before you understand exactly what the recipient has told you?
- Using email inappropriately. Sometimes an alternative form of communication is more appropriate. When was the last time you picked up the phone, walked to talk to someone, even sent an instant message instead of playing email tag?
- Dipping in and out of your inbox rather than focusing on the task in hand. Do you peek at each new email as it arrives?
- Lack of adequate email software skills. Have you ever been trained to use the tool on which we rely on most for business?
Email management tips
Here are seven tips to help you recoup some of that lost time:
- Switch off all new mail notifications. Focus on the task in-hand for at least half an hour before you stop to check for new emails.
- Prioritise which emails you really need. Use filters (also called ‘rules’) to help you manage the flow of emails.
- Learn to say ‘no’ to the emails you do not need. Hit the delete key and banish them from your inbox to stop them becoming clutter.
- Be comfortable about not responding to each and every email. For every email you send, you’ll probably receive one back. Break the cycle!
- Handle each email once. Adopt the ‘4Ds principle’ to process each email. Either deal, delete, delegate or defer action.
- Write your emails in plain clear, grammatically correct English. Avoid text speak and sloppy grammar.
- Make three rounds of email ping-pong the limit. If your emails are still going back and forth after that, it’s time to pick up the phone and talk.
Dr Monica Seeley is founder of Mesmo Consultancy and an expert in helping people and organisations improve productivity by managing email efficiently. Her third book, ‘Brilliant Email’ was published in 2010.
Popular content on communications:
Find more articles, videos and tools on communications in the ‘Resources’ box.