– By the SIYP Team
Email can be a major stressor at work. However, when you learn how to organize it, you may find your entire day becomes more productive.
Vacations are wonderful, right? You get to have fun and relax – enjoying your days and nights with friends and family. Yet, as the vacation comes to an end, this sinking feeling begins to creep in as you start thinking about heading back to your office or business. Not because you don’t love your work – you likely do. But because you know what’s waiting for you when you get back—chaos in your inbox.
Email has become an integral part of our professional and personal lives. On the other hand, if we don’t manage it properly, it can wreck havoc on our productivity on the best of days. Take a day – or especially, a week – off and it can seem as if you’ll never get out from underneath its weight.
Time to organize it now!
One-fourth or more of every worker’s day, on average, is taken up with answering, reading, and responding to email. This is according to research released in 2012 by the McKinsey Global Institute.
Despite the fact that it can be a huge time drain, email as a means of personal and professional communication is likely here to stay. Therefore, we must organize it!
Organizing our email is an important part of organizing our business. Likewise, it’s one key step you can take now – fast – if you need to organize your life better.
Here are five quick and simple tips to organize it and get a handle on email madness now:
Check your email in regular intervals but not in real-time throughout the day.
Of course, to make sure your business or job – or even personal and family life – is managed properly and effectively, you must respond to email in a timely manner. However, this doesn’t have to mean you have to look at – or even answer – every single email the very minute it comes in to your computer, phone, or tablet. In fact, doing so is counterproductive – hindering efficiency and productivity to a great extent.
Imagine – how productive could you be if you had someone walk into your office, unexpectedly, every 5 minutes throughout the day? And what if many of those times, that person asked you to answer, figure out, or do something for them?
If that were true, you would need to stop what you were doing and quickly refocus your attention elsewhere. Then, you would most likely have to search for what they needed—or what you needed, to give them what they needed. Finally, you would have to deliver (and possibly, explain) the answer they were seeking.
Each of these visits might take 5, 10, 20 or even more, minutes out of your day. Possibly more. That’s not even counting the time it takes to get your focus back on what you were working on before the interruption. How productive could you be if that was how you allowed your day to unfold?
Email can be just like this unexpected visitor. Sure, you know you’re going to get email. However, you don’t ever know when you’re going to get those emails that completely throw you off track and require you to – nearly instantly – redirect your attention and focus elsewhere.
What is the solution? How do you get organized with your email so you can still communicate as needed, without having that communication totally consume your time and your day?
Set an email schedule.
For example, you may decide you will only check email first thing in the morning, around noon, and about an hour before your day is over. The key is finding a schedule that works for you. Setting aside specific times to check and handle email, in advance, prepares you mentally for the task. Likewise, it helps you to be more focused and productive in general when dealing with any necessary questions and/or issues.
Make sure people who may need to get in touch with you urgently, are aware of your schedule.
Similarly, make sure they know how to reach you should they need to quickly.
Get rid of email junk mail when possible.
Junk mail email is a huge time waster so make liberal use of the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of most sales or marketing messages. Of course, there may be some lists you have signed up for that do help you do your job better or more completely. There may be others that provide creative or humorous release when needed.
If this is the case, you don’t necessarily want to send all your “non-critical” emails to SPAM or the JUNK mailbox. Unroll.me helps you organize all of these type messages. This application indeed “rolls” up all your newsletters and subscriptions into one daily digest that you can review at the time most convenient for you and your schedule.
Deal with it when you touch it.
Using folders for email is great for organization of messages you need to keep for some reason. However, don’t automatically file it away to deal with later either. If you are using set email times, choose what needs to be done with a message the first time you see it. Do you delete it, create an action item, archive it, or merely respond to it quickly?
If you don’t choose what to do with a message immediately when you first see it, it takes up double (or more) of your time and hangs over your head until you’ve taken care of it. Both scenarios hinder your productivity.
If it is or gets just too bad, perform a major PURGE!
If you have an inbox that is just out of control, organizing it may seem more like a fantasy than a realistic goal. For some, it’s so overwhelming they can’t even get started with an organization plan. If you are on these people, you may just need to bite the lemon.
Start by sorting your INBOX by who it’s from. If it’s from your boss, another critical employee or customer, move those messages to a folder. Then, hit the “Delete” button on everything else.
You haven’t acted on these messages yet and when you can’t act anyway, what will it hurt? Deleting everything in your inbox and starting over may seem unbearable. But people do it “accidentally” every day. And they survive. You will too.