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Is Email Sabotaging Your Productivity?

Is Email Sabotaging Your Productivity?

Email is a convenient tool to facilitate communication, but it can also serve as a distraction that can hijack your time and deplete you of the energy needed to tackle your high value tasks.

We can spend hours reading and responding to unimportant emails. The progress “feels” satisfying, yet it rarely generates meaningful results.

To ensure we focus our time and attention on what really matters, we need to incorporate strategies and boundaries into our email practices. Here are a few tips to help you manage your email effectively:

1. Visualize your day.

Start each day by visualizing how you want it to be. Review your priorities and think through what you want to accomplish by the end of the day.

This will help you distinguish between insignificant tasks, such as spending too much time managing unimportant emails, versus those that are truly important.

[Related: 3 Ways To Detox Your Inbox For 2018]

2. Treat your inbox like any other task.

Untethered access to email provides enormous flexibility. However, because we are no longer tied to our desks, we often open our email at times when we are not in a position to take action (in the elevator, in the grocery store line, at a red light). The problem: a lot of time is wasted re-reading emails.

Furthermore, managing email is often a reactive process. Instead of focusing on our own priorities within our own timeframe, we react to other people’s urgencies.

To minimize these effects, be deliberate and intentional about your email practices. Treat it as you would any other task on your to-do list. Schedule set times to manage your inbox, such as mid-morning, after lunch, and before shutting down for the day. Then, process each email completely the first time you read it. This means moving the email forward in a meaningful way – either deleting it, forwarding it to someone else who needs to handle it, or filing it and noting it on your to-do list to handle at a later date.

3. Unsubscribe from email lists.

Do you really need to receive a daily email from Amazon? Reduce the volume of incoming email messages and you will decrease the amount of time needed to manage your inbox. This is simple and obvious, yet we worry needlessly that if we unsubscribe, we will miss out on some perfect opportunity. The reality is we can find these coupons and deals online with a quick Google search. So, let them go!

4. Create filters.

Filters allow you to establish rules to organize incoming messages. The action will then be performed automatically based on the conditions that you specify. For example, you can create a rule that will direct all newsletters from a particular sender to skip your inbox and instead be filed in a designated folder. 

Each email provider has some sort of “rules wizard” that will guide you through the various actions and conditions that are available. Some even have the capability to provide notifications. With Outlook, for example, you can create a rule that will automatically send an alert to your mobile phone when you receive a particular message.

A small initial time investment is needed for set-up, but once the rules are created, you will greatly minimize the amount of time spent administering incoming emails.

5. Turn off all email alerts.

For our survival, humans are wired to notice and respond to external triggers. However, our brains have not evolved to distinguish between the roar of a tiger versus the ping of an email. Regardless of whether or not you have the willpower to resist the urge to read that incoming message, once your focus has been interrupted by the “ping,” it takes approximately 20 minutes to return to the same level of attention. Turning off all notifications and alerts on your desktop and smartphone can prevent you from falling victim to this productivity threat.

[Related: Powerful Solutions To Help Stop and Prevent Burnout]

6. Create templates.

Use email templates to compose and store messages that include information you send frequently. You can customize them to add new information or to fit the needs of the original email before the template is sent.

This simple tool can save you an enormous amount of time compared to drafting, retyping or even copying and pasting information that appears frequently in your messages.

7. Practice email etiquette.

Think before you send! The more emails you send, the more emails you will receive. To avoid unnecessary back-and-forth, be as clear and concise as possible. Use the subject line to define the purpose of your email and reiterate it in closing. Lastly, be thoughtful and judicious about the people you include in the correspondence – i.e. only involve the people who need to be part of the discussion.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
-Paul J. Meyer

We hope these email strategies assist you in your effort to minimize waste and maximize productivity.

If it feels too overwhelming to handle on your own, we would love to partner with you to provide email management intervention! Contact us to learn more about our consulting and coaching services.

Happy Planning!

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Dana Masset is the President of Planning Etc. LLC, a productivity consultancy focused on improving performance through strategic planning, organization, and time management.


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