When used correctly, email can be a productivity tool – it can allow you to manage the flow of information that comes at you more efficiently, field requests at the times most convenient for you, and store records of important details and decisions. But email is also ripe for the kind of abuses that can decrease your productivity instead of increasing it.
Here are five easy ways email can help you to maintain or increase your productivity.
1. Don’t Read every news article someone sends you. Just because a news article shows up in your in-box, it doesn’t have a higher claim on your time than your other priorities. Too often, people spend time reading everything friends and colleagues suggest for them, without considering whether it’s the best use of their time, relative to everything else on their plates.
2. Don’t Save or file everything. Does your in-box contain thousands of messages, including junk email, invitations to meetings from three months ago, funny notes forwarded you, and your manager’s out-of-office reply from vacation last summer? If so, you’re highly likely to lose track of emails you need to act on. Start deleting, or at least taking advantage of the fact that all email clients offers you folders for organize messages. And speaking of folders….
3. Organize messages by folders. If your in-box is just one giant bucket, with no rationale for sub-folders, you may lose important messages and struggle to find older emails when you need to reference them later. Folders organized by topic, person, priority or by the required action (like “to read,” “to act on,” “to follow up on,” and “as time allows” can begin to organize a muddled in-box.
4. Turn off the new message announcement. The new message indicator can set off a Pavlovian response, where you automatically stop what you’re doing and check to see what new email has arrived. Don’t be managed by these interruptions. Check email only at set intervals.
5. Don’t email and then personally follow-up. Part of the point of sending email is that it allows the other person to respond when it’s convenient for them – and/or to read over your messages and think about it before responding. If you follow-up email with an in-person visit, you’re negating that benefit and spending your time delivering a message twice as well as probably annoying your coworkers. If it’s essential that your message be received immediately, then email isn’t the right medium to use; you should call or talk in person. Many email programs have the ability to notify you when the message is delivered and when it is read.
Please “Like” and share your comments. Additional training resources are located here.