Did you know we can spend a whopping 6 hours a day checking and responding to email? It has to be one of the biggest distractions when it comes to getting stuff done. It can pull you away from important work to all kinds of random micro tasks in a matter of seconds.
The good news is, there are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of time you spend emailing. Below, we have listed some of our favorite tips.
1. Try to check emails at fixed times
Instead of checking emails as they arrive, try checking them at fixed points throughout the day if your role allows it. This could be first thing in the morning, before lunch and at the end of the day. Notify those who may email you that you do this with an automatic response or in your signature and provide them with your phone number if their query is urgent. We think you will be surprised how few calls you actually receive.
2. Use the two minute rule
Made famous by David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, the two minute rule can be used in 2 ways. Clear off small tasks like forwarding an email that take less than two minutes by doing them immediately. Anything that takes longer needs to be scheduled. The two minute rule is also great for ‘swallowing the frog’; that is, tackling the biggest task you may face in your week or day.
If you are feeling overwhelmed at any time, set a timer for two minutes and start. Chances are you will keep going after the two minutes are up, or at least the task won’t feel as difficult once you have made a start.
3. Organize your emails
Do all of your emails go into the same inbox? Meaning you have to rifle through marketing newsletters while searching for an email from a client or your boss? if you use Microsoft Outlook, there are a few easy ways to separate important mails from those that can wait:
Set up folders: Do you work on a number of projects or for different clients? Set up a folder for each one and move pertinent emails to the folders for easy access weeks and months later.
Create mail handling rules: Having folders is a brilliant start but if, like us, you receive hundreds of emails a week, dragging and dropping can get very time consuming in itself. This is where rules come in. They automate the process using conditions like who the email is from, the subject or who it is sent to in order to decide what happens to it. You may wish to get a specific notification, mark it as read or send it directly to a folder. Get started with this step by step guide.
4. Use software to help
There are tools online that can really help when it comes to saving time on email:
Unroll.me: Do you get marketing emails from companies who are no longer relevant? Or have you no idea why you get some of the emails you receive? Unroll.me is a brilliant free tool to see where your emails come from and unsubscribe from those you are no longer interested in.
IFTTT: This is a fantastic tool for connecting all of the software we use in our daily lives. Software is connected by programs called applets which help people make the most of the Internet of Things, like opening a garage door when your BMW enters the driveway! It’s also excellent for managing email. Options included:
- Receive a text when you get an email from a certain address
- Create new to do lists from an email
- Email yourself a reminder for later
And hundreds more definitely worth checking out.
Although it can take a bit of time to get your email organized, once done it could save you hours each week to spend completing your core tasks.
Once you have your email organized and you are back to sending mails, who should you send them to? Take a look at our post on The Etiquette of When to CC and BCC to find out. And before you hit the send button, make sure to read our post on 10 Common Email Mistakes You Should Avoid.