Being a Slave to Emails
What are you spending your time on? Do you set your day and organise your time or do you allow email notifications and interruptions to take over? How much more productive could you be if you minimised this distraction? Here are some suggestions on how to manage your time and avoid being a slave to emails.
Is There a ‘Right’ Time to Action Emails?
When do you consider is the best time for you to check your work emails? Was this something you considered or did you just fall into a routine of checking emails at a certain time? Have you reviewed if this is working for you?
More research is coming through to suggest that checking emails at the end of the day is a better option than checking and actioning them at the start of the day. What does appear to be a consistent piece of advice is the recommendation that checking emails throughout the day is not advised. For most people, it is distracting and disruptive and will often lead you to spend time on an activity that is not a priority.
The best way to ensure a productive day is to set your priorities at the start of the day. Determine what you need to complete, which tasks that contribute to a larger task will you start and which customers will you contact. You then schedule your tasks, and you diarise what needs to be done throughout the day.
Activities that are income generators are prioritised, with lead generators and client contact (or relationship building activities) being a secondary activity. Productivity tasks first, activity tasks afterwards or simply prioritise the work in order of importance to the business.
Setting these tasks at the beginning of the day means that you have the day planned in advance. It means that you get straight to work on the most important tasks. Often, checking emails first thing in the morning can make you lose the first hour of the day ‘clearing up’ non-urgent work, admin tasks and work that can wait and should have waited. There doesn’t appear to be any specific reason as to why people do this other than routine and a force of habit.
Checking emails at the end of the day means that you can clear up any quick admin tasks or respond to enquiries and it will not impact on the work that is a priority, as this will have already been completed. The information, if necessary, can also inform the priorities for the following day. Those who practice this way of working report that they are more focused completing tasks in this way. In addition, priority tasks are completed more quickly, more effectively and with fewer errors than if they are interrupted by emails.
What is the Expected Email Response Period and Who Sets It?
Most customers expect a business to respond within 24 hours or by the end of the following working day. This is a reasonable expectation and something which should be manageable for most businesses.
It is our responsibility to manage the expectation of our customers and this can be done with the simple task of an out of office message response to emails. Most complaints are not due to lack of response but due to poor communication or inability to manage the expectations of the customer.
It is not common for a customer or colleague to expect an immediate response, yet it is not uncommon for us to put pressure on ourselves to answer as soon as we receive the correspondence and to check any incoming emails straight away.
If you have set an ‘out of office’ message, then you can switch off the notifications that are going to disturb you. If it is that urgent, they will pick up the phone.
Minimising Time Spent Managing Emails
How many emails do you ‘ping-pong’ back and forth before you pick up the phone to discuss and try to resolve the issue? Emails, like text messages, can be misconstrued, misunderstood and misinterpreted. How often are you wasting time going back and forth discussing an issue that could be more easily resolved if you picked up the phone and talked it through?
Technology is smart; we just have to use it in the most efficient way possible. We do not have to be a slave to our emails or notifications. Technology enables us to be contactable 24/7, it allows us to access information 24/7, but it doesn’t mean we HAVE to.
Use available software to manage your emails in a way that works for you. It will be different for individuals depending on the nature of the working day and also the nature of the business you are in may have an impact on what works best.
Try these suggestions for managing emails;
1. Use the ‘priority’ Inbox filter to help the system learn which emails you want to see
2. Mark emails you are not interested in as junk
3. Go through the junk email filter and unsubscribe to emails you no longer want
4. Use a separate email to use for non-work-related subscriptions
5. Use the GDPR re-subscription emails as an opportunity to update preferences
6. Use folders to move and store emails so that you can see new correspondence easily
7. Set an ‘out of office’ email response to help manage expectations or point customers elsewhere
8. Use functionality to delete emails when you are on holiday or add a delegate who can go in and clear emails that are no longer relevant when you are away
9. Use colour coding, flags and email ‘rules’ to sort emails as they arrive for you