Whether you make it back into the office on Monday or Wednesday or some day thereafter, vow to spend less time on email. You already know why.
Constant email interruptions steal precious time from other tasks because it takes you several minutes to refocus on your work after each interruption. Despite that, you probably still spend all day managing your inbox, because you know if you don’t, you’ll create a backlog of messages and incomplete to-dos.
It can be overwhelming, stressful and time-consuming to wade through all that email (especially after several days off) once you finally do tackle the daunting task, and you may find that some of your to-dos have slipped through the cracks. Instead of ignoring email (or being a slave to it), follow these simple, battle-tested tips. No, really. Before you leave today, follow this advice. Your future self will thank you.
- Remove the temptation. Log out of your email altogether for blocks of time every day. At the very least, turn off the nagging email alert that often distracts you and beckons you to check your email. Decide on a reasonable schedule for checking your email, for example, every two hours. Tell co-workers and employees about your plan so that they know to call you or come to your office with urgent issues.
- Sort emails as they arrive. Create folders and set rules to filter emails. For example, create a folder for each of your employees, for big projects or for the departments you work with regularly. Also create an “Action” folder for emails that require a response or additional action. You can also create a “To-Read” folder to store the articles and e-letters you want to read later.
- Schedule times to sort your email. Open each email and determine what you need to do next. For emails that you can respond to in less than two minutes, go ahead and do so, and then delete or archive the message. Move the remaining emails into the action folder to address later, to the appropriate archive folder or to the trash.
- Handle emails only once. Leaving previously opened emails in your inbox encourages you to reread them. That wastes your time, so spend a few minutes each day sorting and deleting as necessary to keep your inbox manageable.
- Tackle your “Action” folder. Each day, visit your “Action” folder and complete the tasks in an order and fashion that makes sense to you. As you wrap up those tasks, delete or archive the emails. Don’t hold on to any emails that you won’t need to reference again. Clearing the clutter will make you much more efficient .
What procedures have you discovered that help you maintain control over your email?