I remember when I bought my first computer, registered with America Online and got my first email address. I dialed up and logged in to see if I had even one email from someone who had joined me in the email revolution. It was so exciting hearing that familiar, “You’ve got mail!” Remember that feeling? That’s how it felt back then.
Fast forward over 20 years later and I frequently cringe when I’m working and Microsoft Outlook’s chime alerts me to yet another message. Reading, sorting, filing, forwarding and replying to emails has claimed more of my time than I ever expected it would. I’m communicating on behalf of my clients; I’m organizing events; I’m collaborating with virtual team members; I subscribe to numerous newsletters and email courses. In short, email has become not just a part of my day; it is my day.
Over the years, our discontent with email’s increasing demands on our time has peaked. In 2012 Halston Housing Trust claimed they would be discontinuing internal emails by 2014. (I wonder how that worked out.)
In 2013, as reported by Men’s Health, after tracking the email habits of seven company executives, researchers determined 80 percent of the messages sent were wasteful. And in 2014, Entrepreneur reported that most of us use email poorly, wasting even more time and requiring multiple replies and over-explanation.
In response to the burden email has placed on our time, there’s a growing list of tips and applications promising to alleviate some of our frustration and lead us back to productivity. The goal to achieve “inbox zero” (which isn’t really about having zero messages in your inbox) is real for many, but for most unattainable. Perhaps these tips and applications might get you closer to it.
Learn some new tricks. If you collaborate on projects with several people, take advantage of applications made just for such communications and project management. One of my favorites is Trello and my clients have come to love it. No more digging for emails on a topic. Everything related to a project (all comments, file links, notes) is in one place and quicker to reference.
If you use Microsoft Outlook for email, modify your Send/Receive settings so that you aren’t interrupted as frequently. I used to have mine check for new email every 5 minutes. Now I’ve set separate Send/Receive schedules for my personal and business email addresses. Personal email is fetched every 3 hours and business email every 30 minutes. Far less interruptions during work hours.
Applications like Mailstrom promise to help you power through thousands of emails in just a few clicks.
Think about who you are cc’ing. If no one else needs to take action, leave them off the list.
Remove emails from your smartphone. No, not all of them. But think about what email addresses you don’t need access to all day long, and stop letting them interrupt your day. I still have an old Comcast email address that I rarely check; that email can wait.
If there’s nothing to say, don’t reply. Just don’t.
How are you taming your inbox? Is email driving you crazy?
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