First things first, email is a communication tool, not your To do list! So many people revolve their professional day around their emails !! Nothing could baffle me more. People prioritize their day in relation to their unread/read emails. They feel stressed with their unread emails and thinking that a days job is done when emails are replied. CCing has become a menace.
Emails are used as a way to shed away ownership and responsibilities. “Oh! Was I supposed to complete that? Did you email me?” “I marked you on that email, didn’t you complete it?” This type of culture gives rise to follow-ups and lax attitude. If you haven’t heard of above lines, pat yourselves on back. I believe you are working in a collaborative and supportive environment.
As communication technology will improve, hopefully, we will move away from using emails. But until then below are the tips I have come across to manage my productivity and days better.
1) Turn off the Notification devil. Nothing could be more distracting than getting desktop email notifications every five min.
2) Have dedicated ‘Away from email’ time and ‘Checking email’ time. Checking emails more than thrice a day is detrimental to your productivity. I make sure I don’t check my emails between 10-12. I try and finish my projects in this time.
3) If the email chain goes more than 3 replies, it’s time to pick up the phone and sort out.
4) I create folders on the basis of two parameters 1) Sender 2) A frequency and automatically route emails to them. All emails with set frequency go in same folders – Monthly reports, Weekly dashboard etc. This helps in finding all reports in chronological order in one folder. Similarly, all emails from Health team, CSR team etc. goes in their folders – automatically, keeping the inbox clean.
5) I use Mark as Unread as my to do list. I have switched off automatically read as a default option. If I have completed a task I go and manually mark that email as Read.
6) I start my day with Sent items. In a world where follow-up is a necessity and ownerships are not there, this helps. I browse my sent items and write ‘Gentle reminder’ for all pending replies.
7) You can use predefined times to decide when your email leaves your Outbox.
8) I have a folder named Zfriday. It has many sub folders – Z is used so that it is in the end of all folders. Friday because I want to check it only on a Friday and not waste my time with emails coming in that mail box every day. Unimportant trackers, Health tips, CSR emails etc. go in this.
9) Lastly, I make sure that my day doesn’t end with my emails. I try and track my office relationships, learn new things, take project updates, catch up with key influential people all outside my Microsoft outlook!
Do you have any other better ideas? Please share.