Is managing email a struggle for you at work? Do you dread going through your inbox that’s full of a plethora of emails? Checking email sounds like a simple task to go through, but that’s not always the case. There has to be time to reply and write longer messages, along with catching up on newsletters. Some people have learned professional email tips over time. However, many don’t follow the best email tips for work.
Professional email tips
Electronic mail (email) has been around for nearly three decades. It’s changed the way we communicate quickly with others compared to sending regular mail messages. But within the last ten years, email has become a significant time waster from working on “deep work” tasks. In 2019, email users spent around 28% of their workweek on email. That may not be much, but it’s a little over a quarter percentage of someone’s time specifically to email. Today, email has greatly benefited the world, but it’s been somewhat of a burden on people’s time.
Though email usage won’t stop anytime soon, there are ways you can take control of your inbox. Some companies have used project management tools (such as Wrike) as alternatives to email. But email should be a useful productivity tool rather than a distraction from real work.
By keeping some tips in mind, it’ll be less dreadful managing email. For the remainder of this post, I will go over some of the best tips for managing email, including:
1.) Clearing your inbox every day
2.) Stop “CC’ing” everyone in your email
3.) Delaying responses
4.) Practice the “Yesterbox” method
Professional email tips: Clear your inbox daily
Reviewing your inbox each day can help you stay focused on the most critical tasks. If you leave it flooded some days; it’ll mean more time you spend responding to messages on other days. So when you go through your inbox, go through each message promptly. If it doesn’t require immediate action, save it for another time.
There’s an excellent method Michael Hyatt lays out for processing your inbox. But first, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
Read each message once and ask yourself: Is this message actionable, or am I being asked to do something? If so, do one of the following three actions:
DO– Take action on the task immediately. If it can get done in less than two minutes, knock it out right now.
DELEGATE– Pass the task along to someone better to tackle the action.
DEFER– Decide to complete the task later, for functions that take more than two minutes or cannot delegate. Add it to your to-do list or schedule it on your calendar.
If the task is not actionable or require a response, do one of the two options:
DELETE– Determine if you might need the information later. If not, delete it.
FILE– if you need to refer back to an email later, file it. Put in a folder called “Processed Mail” or an archive folder.
Stop “CC’ing” everyone in your email
If you work for a mid-size to a large company, getting “CC’ed” in your email is very common. Unfortunately, it can be annoying if the message has nothing to do with you. It’s like getting a message meant to kill some time, but not necessary to read.
So back to email basics- don’t CC your entire team and only do it for relevant groups. “CC'ing” is an excellent feature for those who need to read another email, but it shouldn’t be overdone.
“CC’ing” practices at my jobs
I can’t tell you how many emails I was CC’ed in recent years. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of them didn’t need my attention. However, I recalled some of my colleagues fixing this issue when we launched a new communication tool. The tool allowed us to send messages to only relevant groups, rather than everyone in our department. Thought it wasn’t perfect; it was a vast improvement over getting unnecessary emails that had nothing to do with my concerns.
This tip may be challenging for some, but it can save so much time daily. For those who are attached to their email, they’re willing to respond as soon as possible. Or, in some instances, return within a few minutes. Unless it requires an immediate response, hold off on it for an hour or even the next day. The ability to discipline yourself is key to managing your inbox. Without it, some people will stay glued to their email to the point it takes up a lot of time.
If I should delay email, what else can I do?
Some people use email as their primary communication method. But when it comes to emergencies, email is off the table. So make sure to give out your phone number to those close to you. Whether that’s family, friends, or business partners, emergencies aren’t meant to land in your email inbox. In emergencies, you’re going to get dire phone calls or people coming right at your doorstep.
Use the ‘Yesterbox” method
This unique method came about by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of zappos.com. As he explains his story on the website, he treated his inbox as a daily to-do list. But as his inbox kept filling up, it leads to more work and stress over time. Therefore, the purpose of “Yesterbox” is to only respond to yesterday’s inbox, instead of today’s inbox as your to-do list. As Hsieh writes, “If it can wait 48 hours without causing harm, then you are not allowed to respond to any emails that come in today, even if it's a simple one-word reply.”
I think “Yesterbox” is a fresh method to try out. I never heard of it until a few days ago, but it makes sense if you were focusing on yesterday’s emails. For some people, many emails come in daily that it can be challenging to keep up with sometimes. So waiting until the next day might be a more manageable approach to tackle.
The only concern is the urge to hold off essential emails, which might be a small exception for some people who would try out this method. On a rare occasion, I'll admit I'm guilty of that doing it if I have urgent messages to check on. But for the most part, I avoid it whenever possible.
There are many more tips I could go over, but these are some of the best ones to manage your email. With email currently, one of the workplace norms, understanding how and when to check email is more vital than ever. People need to improve their productivity; also, to focus on what matters the most. If you can implement these best practices, email can be used as a necessary productivity tool. Instead of a time-waster for many people, why not use email in a better manner? It’s worth looking into to make the most of your time.
Do you find email to be convenient or unnecessary? Which of the tips above do you think works best for you?
Leave a comment below and please share this post with others.
Eric is a time management consultant and owner of the blog, quitkillingtime.com. He takes great pride in helping people manage their time, personally and professionally. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He likes to go for long walks out in nature and been taking Zumba classes every week at his local gym. You can follow Eric via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.