Every business owner is looking for ways to improve their productivity. Higher productivity means accomplishing more each day, and achieving your goals both faster and with fewer resources. But one of the most critical opportunities for productivity improvement is also one of the most neglected: email.
Email may not seem like a major determining factor in your overall productivity, but I believe it’s one of the most important areas to improve. If you’re like most business owners, you’re sending and receiving hundreds of emails per day. Salespeople spend 21 percent of their day writing emails, and an average of 13 working hours per week on email.
On top of that, email is frequently underestimated; business owners neglect improving their email habits because they don’t envision it as something that can be controlled.
Top Email Productivity Tips
These email productivity considerations are rarely acknowledged, and even more rarely acted upon, but they can tremendously increase your email productivity.
1. Notifications Do More Harm than Good
If you’re like most business owners, you have notifications turned on for your email, and probably on multiple devices. Throughout the day, you get noise, visual, or vibration indications that you’ve received a new message. While this may seem like a good thing, because it calls your attention to new messages as they come in, in reality, it distracts you from your work—and every time your attention is broken, it can take 23 minutes or longer to restore it. If you can manage it, turn off notifications entirely. If you prefer to leave them on, at least make them less noticeable.
2. CC additions Multiply Time Waste
The CC line is a blessing and a curse, allowing you to add more people to an email or thread with the click of a button. Many professionals throw an entire team onto the CC line, just for the sake of including them, but it’s important to keep in mind that new additions will always multiply potential time waste. Each person in that field will need to spend some time reviewing the message, even if it isn’t relevant to them, and each person added to a thread will increase its complexity. Only CC people when absolutely necessary.
3. Filtering can Do the Work for You
Did you know that Gmail allows you to create automatic filters to organize your emails as they come in? It’s easy to do. All you need to do is define certain criteria for emails, such as specific phrases in the body or subject line, specific senders, or whether or not they contain an attachment. Then, you can set all incoming emails matching these criteria to be automatically labeled or marked in some way. It can greatly increase your organizational capacity, and simplify your life.
4. Shorter Emails are More Effective
Many professionals mistakenly try to improve the clarity of their communications by writing more. They spend more sentences and more paragraphs elucidating their thoughts and fleshing out their ideas. But while this is effective in some scenarios, it adds unnecessary complexity in others. Shorter emails force you to be more concise with your phrasing; they take less time to write, take less time to read, and ultimately result in fewer opportunities for misunderstandings.
5. There’s Always a Way to Organize
It’s no secret that better-organized email inboxes are easier to manage — and are far less stressful to deal with. However, many professionals feel trapped or forced into a specific way of organizing. The truth is there’s no one correct way to organize your inbox; you can make use of folders, labels, tags, or whatever other systems you want, so long as it makes sense to you and you apply it consistently.
6. Empty Inboxes are a Sign of Vigilance
Inbox zero may seem like an elusive concept, but it’s perfectly achievable with the right approach. The dream is to have an inbox with literally zero email messages in it, but this may or may not be possible; instead, focus on getting your inbox to “fully organized” or “caught up” at the end of each day. The most organized emailers are willing to put in extra effort to make this happen.
7. There are Always More Ways to Improve
No matter how much better you get at writing, sending, reading, and organizing your emails, there will always be more ways you can improve. It’s up to you to identify the things you need to improve on, and come up with strategies to address them.
Take action on these email productivity secrets and you’ll become a more productive emailer, and a more productive professional overall. It may take some time to work out a strategy that works for you, but through experimentation and observation, you’ll eventually discover a superior approach.