Tips for Increasing E-mail Efficiency
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
While many people thought e-mail would revolutionize work productivity, the opposite has happened. In fact, some say e-mail has been the biggest blow to work productivity the world has ever seen. The challenge is that e-mail is constant and never ending, and a serious distraction. When you constantly take breaks in a project to peak at your inbox, it takes several minutes to return to full concentration. Throughout a work day, this leads to lost productivity and wasted time.
Consider these tips for more effectively managing your e-mail inbox:
- Handle e-mail in bulk. Set aside two or three designated times of the day when you will respond to and write e-mails. Block these times on your calendar, treating these appointments as you would a project or meeting. This not only makes you more efficient in your overall work day, but increases your effectiveness in responding to messages.
- Create a filing system for e-mails. The problem with leaving messages in your inbox is that you then read them more than once. The goal should be to read them once and file them based on their follow-up and relevance. Consider client-specific folders, or folders such as time sensitive, waiting (to designate you need more information on something before you can respond), someday (those messages that are of low importance), and travel.
- Assess message urgency. Split e-mails into those you respond to daily, weekly or never. Daily e-mails include those directly related to projects and which impact work flow, requests from media or new business opportunities, and emails from your “inner circle.” Respond to these message during your designed times each day. E-mails you respond to once a week are those that relate to someone else’s agenda or queries from people who want your help on something. E-mails you can delete and never respond to are status updates and unsolicited requests. Reviewing the sender and subject line, and deleting this final group of messages without opening them can save you significant time.
- Manage e-mail at low energy. Productivity is about managing energy, not time. Times when you are at your peak energy should be used for high priority or difficult tasks on your plate or those that require intense focus. E-mail itself doesn’t provide tangible results, so it’s best to focus on e-mail at your low energy times of the day.
- Leverage system tools. Most e-mail systems allow you to set up rules to automatically filter messages into specific files, and using this tool can improve your e-mail management. Also consider shutting off automated e-mail pop-ups and phone alarms that signal you have a new message. This will help you maintain focus and stick to your plan of handling e-mail in bulk.
While you may feel like e-mail is controlling you instead of the reserve, utilizing these tips can put you back in control and increase your daily productivity.