One of the main obstacles to stay productive at work is email. It’s easy to think that trying to keep your inbox clean, with no emails pending to read or to answer - the so-called inbox zero objective - does not make a difference. But the truth is that knowing how to manage the time you dedicate to your emails is essential to maintain a high productivity level in the office.
It is proven that if you respond to each email immediately, as it comes to your inbox, you are dispersing your attention and wasting time that you could devote to some other more valuable tasks, which are the important ones. This bad practice creates frustration, causing the feeling of never finishing anything.
At Signaturit we believe that it’s essential to think strategically about email, organize the inbox and decide how much time to spend dealing with it, so that we do not consume our highest hours of productivity. In this post we have collected 7 tips that will help you to be more efficient. Follow them if you want to achieve the inbox zero objective:
This post is also available in Spanish.
1. Decide what time of day is best for you to review your inbox
For most of us, the early hours of the morning are the most productive hours of the day. Therefore, it is advisable to devote them to perform the tasks that require greater effort, usually the the hardest ones that determine our performance assessments. But whatever your more productive moment of the day is, do not allow yourself to be distracted by every email that you receive. Ideally, you should dedicate just one moment a day to review your inbox, setting a maximum time of 20 minutes to do so. During that time you should be able to:
respond to emails that will take less than 2 minutes to reply
filter the emails that require more time, due to an associated task, if you need to find additional information to answer, or if you have to forward them to someone else (see point 2).
eliminate the rest
2. Use folders or flags to classify emails require action
All of the emails that you can not respond to in 2 minutes, yet require an action from your side - either to perform a task, seek information, check with your boss before replying or forwarding them to a colleague - you can classify them in specific folders or tag them with a colored flag when you do a quick check to your inbox. This way, when it comes to devote more time to these emails, you'll know where to find them and what each one is about. Subsequently it will take you less time to resolve them.
There is no right or wrong method to organize your emails. It depends on what your job is and how you prefer to organize your time. It may be interesting for you to create folders for projects, or maybe it suits you best to classify your emails whether they include an important or urgent task. There are also those people who choose to write down the tasks arising from emails in a separate document, or to put them in a note on the calendar. Any strategy is valid if it helps you not to waste your quality time while dealing with your inbox.
3. Create templates
There are many situations in which the same text is often repeated in an email, either because you have to make contact with potential clients or prospective employees whom you do not know personally, or because you have to respond to emails for which the answer is always the same. Whatever the case, it is useful to create templates. Write the generic text once in an email and save it as a template. You can use it as many times as you need, devoting only a few minutes to customize the header.
4. Create distribution groups
If you have a working team that you exchange emails often with, create a distribution group that includes the emails of all members of the team. This will help you save time whenever you need to send an email to everyone. It will always be easier to write a single common email address than to write individual email addresses, even if the auto-complete function exists. Of course, to create a distribution group is always very advantageous at a departmental level, to send any notifications that affect the whole team by typing a single email address.
5. Be brief and concise when writing or replying to emails
Many times we write emails that are much extensive than needed. Try to be as brief and concise as possible. If you write a brief and concise response, it’s likely the person you’re communicating with will match your tone and reply briefly as well. At the end of the day, this helps everyone be more productive. And remember that going to the point and being educated is not incompatible.
6. Create an automatic filter and ban the spam
Although you may never open spam emails, you can avoid being distracted by them. Don’t waste a minute deleting emails that are not in your interest. Instead, create an automatic filter that sends spam directly to the trash bin. All email servers allow you to create filters - Mailbox, Gmail, Outlook - although it may seem a rather arduous task, not doing it will make you waste more time. If you have subscribed to newsletters in topics not related to your job, you can also create an automatic filter and classify them in a folder created specifically for them, so that they do not invade your inbox or distract you from the important tasks. When you have a break or some spare time, you can check this folder and read these newsletters.
7.Close the chat
While you're spending time with tasks that require more concentration or effort, close the chat. It is much better to use it while you review your inbox, but just as a tool for quick communication with your colleagues. By all means, try to not get distracted with chat conversations, especially during your most productive hours.
We hope that these 7 tips help you stay focused while using your email and make the most of your productive hours. In addition to not wasting time while you manage your email, there are many other strategies and tools that help you to be more productive in the office. Signaturit is the best example of a tool saves you time at work, allowing you to be more productive. Remember that you can try it for free.
This post is also available in Spanish.