If you’re like most people, you can probably look back to a time when you felt completely overwhelmed by emails. As you move up in your career and add responsibility to your job, the number of emails (and texts, and calls, and meetings) tends to increase and can sometimes feel impossible to manage. Fortunately there are a few simple things you can do to make an email a breeze
Getting down an effective communication strategy can be challenging at first but we promise if you stick with it, it’ll pay off in the long run. Here are 6 strategies you can use to get your inbox under control.
1. Always Add Value to the Conversation
Before you send a reply, take an extra minute and ask yourself “Am I responding just to show I’m paying attention?” If you are, the truth is you’re probably wasting time that could be spent producing something of value. When responding to an email make sure that you are adding value to the conversation or answering a specific question.
2. Prioritize Your Replies
This one is particularly important when it comes to being more effective with your emails. Rather than trying to respond to emails in the order they arrived, go through them and separate the ‘must respond’ emails from the ‘this can wait’ ones.
3. Save Articles and Videos for Later
We all know that in today’s world it’s easier than ever to get distracted online. That’s why it’s important to leave articles and videos to another time of the day. If you see something interesting while going through your email, flag it and then set aside another portion of the day to review it.
4. Aim for a 24-hour Response Time
In the professional world, 24 hours is largely accepted as a reasonable response window and you may actually be surprised at how many issues get resolved while waiting for your reply. The important skill is to recognize when the matter is urgent and requires your input. Remember, your career will be defined by getting things done, not by simply responding to emails.
5. Give Tough Emails Their Own Time On Your To-Do List
The majority of people get their best work done focusing on a single task for 45 minutes followed by a short break. If you notice an email that is going to require a more detailed response don’t be afraid to apply the same tactic. Work to quickly clear your inbox of easy emails (a single task) and come back later to spend 30 – 45 minutes on the more challenging responses (each being their own separate single task).
6. Recognize When It’s Time To Skip an Email.
Sometimes people fall into the trap of trying to resolve every issue over email, without recognizing the limitations of the technology. If you ever find yourself going back and forth without making progress, take a minute to pop over to someone’s desk for a face-to-face chat or simply give them a call. You’ll be amazed at the progress that be made with a five-minute conversation.
What are your strategies for managing you inbox? Are there any tips that we missed that you use in your daily routine? Let us know in the comments below and if you’re looking for more productivity tips check out our post on how to ease back into work after a vacation. Finally be sure to check out our Twitter and follow us if you’re not already.