Emails can be major source of stress and disruption in our lives. But don’t panic, there are ways to take back control. How to cope with email overload.
More than 269 billion emails are sent every day (that’s 149,513 every minute), and sometimes it feels as though they are all ending up in our own, individual inbox. Volumes are only set to increase, given that more employees are working remotely, resulting in a greater reliance on electronic messages.
It’s easy to spend a large portion of your working day just trying to make a dent in your email backlog, to the detriment of other, often more pressing, priorities.
Here are four strategies that might help you to reduce this burden, improve productivity and streamline communication.
Far too many people have more than one email address. That makes sense, of course. You need your primary work email address, perhaps a personal one too and maybe “special” email addresses for marketing and so on. You might have another that is linked to a social media account, and you could have further email addresses for particular logins.
Multiple email addresses lead to problems, such as the need to log in to different services. However, the most significant drain on your productivity is psychological. That’s because you know you have multiple email addresses and your brain continually worries that you might not have checked one service or another. So, you get subconscious signals to check your personal email or to have a look at those individual email addresses. This psychologically triggered checking behaviour wastes time. Plus, it is a waste of mental energy, reducing your overall performance.
The solution is one email address that gets everything forwarded to it. Gmail is an excellent option, but there are others including paid-for services such as FastMail. If your company is concerned about security issues with centralised email services, then use something such as G Suite. You can connect all your existing email addresses to such systems. Plus you can send from those systems as though you were emailing from the original accounts, meaning you can retain your separate identities.
Keep it short. Try limiting yourself to five lines, with bullet points and/or questions you need addressed. Within that, make sure your message is structured, succinct, spell-checked and focused on a single topic.
Have open discussions with key co-workers about the most effective ways to communicate with them. This will help you develop a greater understanding of what types of communications are handled better face-to-face or by phone, preventing you from exhausting the use of your email systems.
Commit to reforming how you send emails. Brevity is your friend; write shorter, smarter emails that warrant faster responses by getting to the bottom line of your message efficiently. Learn your email values and spend less time working and writing emails; focus on clarity, concision, relevance and actionable items. If you can accomplish responding to an email quickly, do so. Otherwise, file the emails to be handled according to their precedence.
Finally, yes, you should digitally file your email. Sometimes, messages can’t be dealt with right away or need to be kept for research or documentation purposes. Webb suggests looking at the type of email messages you get and why you need to keep them. Then, create a filing system that works for you. It may be as simple as having broad message categories such as department, group, action items, etc. Or you can create a more detailed system that files by project name or subject area.
Using these four methods can significantly reduce the time it takes to handle email, giving you more time to work more efficiently and with less stress, thereby cutting out email overload. Now it’s your time to try it! Let us know if it works!