If you were to ask office managers what uses up most of their time, a good portion of them would point to email as the biggest part of their day. More time is spent writing, responding to, and organizing email than any other single task. You have certainly had the experience when you decide to use five minutes before the meeting to send a quick email and fifteen minutes later you are on your way and late for the meeting. Here are some tips on taking control of your email and increasing your productivity.
Be Wise about What you Use Email For
The advancements of email have allowed us to improve our productivity like never before, but soon email becomes the thing that sucks up most of our time. Email can be used as a tool to quickly get information to someone; and allowing the receiver to respond immediately improves productivity. But, if it takes more than 5 emails to either get a point across or solve an issue, then email is the wrong medium for handling that situation. At that point it is time to get old school and pick up the telephone. You can save more time clarifying details in a conversation than using the key board and waiting for responses.
Check Email a Handful of Times throughout the Day
Many of us treat our email like dollar bills in the wind tunnel machine at the fair – trying to catch everything immediately as it comes in. I check my email three times a day. The first time I check my email is when I come into work in the morning. I take the emails I received either after hours or early in the morning (I’m west coast) and either respond to them or delegate the tasks included in them to the right parties. My email is, for all intents and purposes, shut down until after lunch. When I come back from lunch, I crack open the email again and pound out responses to pressing items. Lastly, at the end of the day, I check my email one last time and do some task delegation and organization. Nothing breaks up concentration and productivity quite like responding to emails immediately as they come in. Sure, this might sound like you will miss crucial items, but think about it – at the most, an email will go 4 hours without being looked at, and if it is urgent and you haven’t responded quickly enough I bet you will get a telephone call.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Subject Line
I don’t even want to think about how much time I’ve spent going through my inbox looking for an email because it had an incorrect or vague subject line. In my job, I deal with 30+ clients and while a subject line of “Articles” might be ok for the client I’m sending work to, when that client responds and their email subject line reads “re: Articles” I’m at a huge disadvantage. I have learned to get in the habit of writing email subjects like this: Client Name – Topic of Email & Action Needed. The first part (client name) helps me keep things organized when they get returned. The second part (topic of email and action needed) helps the client understand what the email contains and what they need to do with it.
I like to think that people I send emails to are able to stay organized thanks to my descriptive subject lines. I tend to respond faster to well written subject lines. And while we are on the subject, here is a pro-tip. If you use Outlook (which many of us do), you can change the subject of emails you receive. Simply open the email you received with the horribly written (or blank) subject line, double click on the subject to highlight all the text, and then call it whatever you want to. Once completed, hit the save button and the subject line will forever be changed!
Keep your daily workflow on schedule by managing your urge to check and respond to emails. Take control of your email and increase your productivity. There are so many different ways to keep your inbox organized so commit to learning the tools provided. Create different folders and use the color labels to help you stay organized. Immediately add task to your tasks folder and use the reminders to get required work done. Make it a point to get better with email this year and watch your office productivity skyrocket!
About the Author: Leanna Cruz is the Editorial Director of Positively Successful Magazine, a career development magazine targeted towards mid-level professionals. The success magazine offers tips and suggestions on how to get more out of your professional and personal life.