Email. Ugh. I once heard it said that email is nothing more than someone else’s agenda for your day. Wow.
Still, email is an absolutely vital part of our businesses. So many messages flow through our inbox daily that just keeping up can feel like a full-time job.
So how do we stop being slaves to our inbox?
Like most productivity solutions, it’s a matter of trial and error. Here are 3 ways I’ve managed to end the overload and actually get stuff done:
1) Set clear boundaries
I’m all for planning my day by blocking out time for specific activities. And one of those activities is email.
I set aside 1 or 2 20-minute time slots during my day to respond to messages and requests. Committing to spending no more than 40 minutes a day on email provides a sense of relief. It holds me accountable to spending my time actually doing the necessary tasks that drive my business.
Within each time slot, I maintain a clear sense of priorities. For example, I try to respond to clients or team members within 24 hours. Requests for collaboration or other opportunities could take up to 72 hours.
I used to worry that being “unresponsive” for a certain period of time could result in missing out on opportunities.
Over time, I’ve noticed that simply letting other’s know what to expect goes a long way. You can do so in an autoresponder that indicates your estimated response time or simply inform your clients or team members in person.
I also recommend turning off any notifications as you work. Not only do notifications interrupt our focus, but they promote multi-tasking, which can result in using up to 10x more energy and creative bandwidth to complete a single task.
To streamline things even further, consider unsubscribing to anything you haven’t opened in the last three months (except my email list, haha.)
As a child, my mom would remind me the importance of cleaning my room. She’d say that physical clutter creates mental clutter. I believe the same can be applied to our inbox.
2) Don’t use your email as your to-do list
True or false? You rely so heavily on email communication that it’s one of the first things you look at in the morning?
I’d be lying if I didn’t answer true, myself. There are times I recall spending an extra 20 minutes in bed scrolling through my inbox before even getting up to go to the bathroom!
In doing this, we manage to put others’ priorities before our own.
For many of us, our inbox takes on that of a “to-do” list and our time is spent responding to other people’s requests. While responding to these requests can feel productive, it’s not actually getting us any closer to reaching our own goals.
The fact is, the tasks that drive our business forward, like strategic planning or product creation, don’t typically get done via email.
For starters, try to refrain from checking your email first thing in the morning. Start by crossing your day’s top priorities off your list before checking in with others. Additionally, I suggest drafting your responses to frequently asked questions and keeping them on file for use when needed. This way you can save time on a crafting a brand new response.
3) Stop sending so many e-mails!
Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to using e-mail as an instant messenger. This usually results in long and exhausting conversation threads (that become impossible to track) and a lot of wasted time.
The more emails you send, the more you will receive. Streamline your messages. Be as clear and concise as possible and avoid long-winded responses that prompt multiple points of discussion.
Typically, I encourage conversations to take place in person (by phone or Skype) and reserve emails for short replies to simple questions. If communication must happen online, I stick to apps like Slack or iMessages.
Looking for more tools and strategies to keep you focused, productive and hitting your goals? That’s exactly what you’ll learn in this free webinar from my friend, Michael Hyatt. Sign up now and thank me later. Click here to register.
What tools have you come across to beat email overload? Share them in the comments below and join the conversation in my FREE Facebook community.