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The secret to successful email management

Mar 17, 2021 | Business

Is email overload making us unproductive? A large part of our professional life revolves around email. On average, a professional interacts with 120 emails in a day, which can cause inbox overload and often gets in the way of doing productive, high-value work. Keep reading for the secret to successful email management!

When we get dozens of emails in a day, we need workflow and habits to support our system, as there are only so many hacks and automations that we can implement to help us manage high-volume email.

The key to success in email management is deliberate, intentional behaviour and habits.

Here we share practical tips on how to stay on top of emails:

Turn off alerts for new emails

If we have email alerts turned on all the time for all our devices, then we are being conditioned, in a classic Pavlovian way, by our technology. We might not even understand how these habits shape us.

In almost every role and position that we’ve come across – unless we are in the media, an executive assistant or front-of-house reception – people can always turn their alerts off and be more intentional as to when they check their emails.

Create a simple email filing system

Don’t treat an inbox like an everything-box, such as a filing cabinet, an archive box or to-do-list. We should have a workflow and organising system to categorise our emails, even if we don’t achieve a ‘zero inbox’.

The idea behind a zero inbox is that we should never have emails sitting in our inbox. Instead, the inbox should act as an in-tray. Start by considering what needs to be done with the email and then act upon it when ready.

Start with a simple system to avoid feeling overwhelmed with too many email folders.

  • Action folder: Emails that will require more than two minutes of our time.
  • Waiting folder: Emails to which we are awaiting a reply.
  • Reading folder: Emails with interesting articles, journal articles, blogs – it’s like an email bookshelf.
  • Archive folder: Emails where no action is needed. Emails can be filed here and searched for when required.
  • Trash: Deleted emails that require no action.

The simplicity of just five folders makes organising email much easier.

Practise self-control

Is there value in checking and responding to emails every five seconds? Almost always the answer is ‘no’, but that’s what we do. Most workers can get away with checking emails three to four times per day. If we check our emails at intervals throughout the day, we can still be responsive. Someone will hear from us within three to four hours, which is acceptable, instead of being reactive and checking emails 40 times a day.

The compulsion to check emails is a battle that even the most seasoned zero inbox followers struggle with. One reason for this is we have neurotransmitters that release dopamine in small doses every time we see and react to a new email.

The average person needs 23 minutes to get fully back on task after an interruption. A solution for those struggling to resist inbox grazing is to check emails every hour on the hour. It’s an easy habit trigger, and we are giving ourselves uninterrupted time, 45 to 60 minutes, to do something cognitive, of high value.

Do not start the day with email

The top productivity hack is to rethink our morning routine. Spend the first few minutes reviewing the action folder and what needs to be done and prioritise, and then go to the inbox. By starting in the action folder, we are more likely to prioritise emails effectively.

The inbox is incredibly dynamic, and if we manage our to-do list in our inbox, we need to have very high discipline to not check the new emails that come in.

Reset to zero inbox

How do we get started with zero inbox if we have tens of thousands of emails in our inbox? When we have reset to ‘inbox zero’ and start a new workflow, we are actually creating a trigger in our brain that it is possible to get to zero and stay there.

Select all emails in the inbox, except the most urgent ones, and just move them into a filing folder to start with a zero email inbox. Then, make a plan over the week to review the filed emails, moving any outstanding emails to the action folder for follow-up.

To be completely honest, getting to zero inbox isn’t the ultimate goal for us here at DGL Accountants. It is about knowing how to get control and organise emails outside the inbox!

Article sourced from our friends at InTheBlack.

The material and contents provided in this publication are informative in nature only. It is not intended to be advice and you should not act specifically on the basis of this information alone. If expert assistance is required, professional advice should be obtained.