|IN BRIEF: In today’s electronic working world, you probably get overwhelmed when managing your email. This communication tool was supposed to make our lives simpler, but more often than not it does exactly the opposite.|
If your email inbox is out of control, you might want to rethink your methods for organising your email and emptying your inbox. Developing a new approach to processing your inbox can help you to gain more control, improve your response time, and keep up with critical actions and due dates.
I receive hundreds of emails a day.
I spend most of my day responding to incoming messages.
I can't find anything in my inbox.
Even when I’m home, I’m still aware of receiving emails.
In response to these common complaints, some companies are starting to take drastic steps to help their employees manage the number of emails they receive. Two examples of this include British IT services company, Atos, planning to ban internal email by 2015 and German car manufacturer Volkswagen pledging to stop sending emails to employees after working hours.
According to Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, there are several strategies you can adopt to manage your email without taking the “radical action” that Atos and VW are trying.
How to regain control over your email:
1. Develop clear and effective protocols.
Email overload is a symptom of a larger issue. If your organisation has ambiguous decision-making processes and people don’t get what they need from their colleagues, chance are that they’ll flood the system with emails and meeting requests. An email handled well reduces the need for long, drawn-out meetings. Take the time to reply well to emails as this can save you twice the time in the future.
2. Control your flow of emails.
Another way to reduce the time you spend on email is to make sure you aren’t signed up for spam emails or emails that aren’t useful to you such as e-newsletters and promotional materials. Unsubscribe to these and turn off social media notifications, such as the notifications from your Facebook or Twitter account.
3. Limit how many emails YOU send.
You can reduce how many emails you receive by sending fewer emails yourself, and also by limiting how many people you write to, or CC in to your correspondence. Resist the temptation to send one-word messages such as ‘Thank you’ and do not ‘Reply All’ unless necessary.
4. Don’t ignore other communication options.
Don’t rely on email to make big decisions or to sort through complex issues, such as policy changes. This results in multiple ‘back and forth’ replies with very little clarity on final decisions. Be sensitive to what works for your company – sometimes a face-to-face chat is needed and other times a quick phone call will suffice.
5. Take an occasional break.
Email is a constant presence in our lives, particularly with the increasing number of smart phones, so it can be rejuvenating to disconnect from all things digital once in a while. Some do this over weekends or when they go on holiday.
6. Limit the Send/Receive function.
Choose specific times during the day when you will check for new messages in your inbox. If you do it every five minutes, you’ll end up spending your whole day on email. However, it is important that you don’t ignore your inbox either - checking your email only once or twice a day is impractical as it is meant to facilitate a quick-response time.
By modelling good email practice, you can encourage those around you to only send messages when it’s necessary and appropriate.