Work emails. We love them, we hate them. On the one hand, they spare us the task of cold-calling or answering the phone when we’re busy. On the other hand, managing your inbox can feel so overwhelming that you end up neglecting important emails (as well as work) altogether. While most of us regard email as merely a chore, managing it effectively can take as much administration as your main duties.
Does your work email feel like a beast to handle? Read on to learn about the most common email mistakes and how you can deal with them more strategically.
1. You don’t use separate folders for your email
Some people neglect using folders because they’re afraid that they will forget about an important email after it’s been filed away. Other people are simply too lazy. But the more emails you have in your inbox, the most stressed out you are going to feel. Soon it’ll be hard for you to find important emails because they’re buried under so much junk.
So create folders organised by topic and urgency. Make sure you have a few labeled “ACT NOW,” “follow up,” or “can wait” so that you’ll know how to prioritise.
2. Your email is hooked up to way too many devices
Doesn’t it get annoying to hear your phone buzz every time you get an email? Especially when your computer and tablet are giving you the same notification. It’s noisy, it’s disruptive, and worst of all, it’s useless.
“Useless?!” You say. “But I NEED to check my email on the go!”
Well, yeah. But it’s a nuisance to deal with when you’re in the office. Silence those notifications. Hearing those pings over and over again only conditions you to drop everything and look at your phone. If you really need to check your email, do it on the computer at set times. Which brings us to our next point….
3. You check your email every time you hear a notification
Human beings were not made to multitask. It’s better to handle one task at a time, and to do them really well, than it is to haphazardly complete five things at once over the course of a day.
Out of all the emails you receive on a given day, perhaps only half, or even just a third, require urgent action. The rest will just break your focus. You’ll never be able to delve deeply into a task if you’re constantly taking breaks just to read yet another newsletter. So instead of checking your email every time you see a notification, designate set times to handle your emails in batches. It’s so much more gratifying (and easier) to spend half an hour firing through 20 email responses than it is to spend the whole day laboring over them one by one in between more important tasks. Give each task in your day, including emails, your utmost focus. Don’t be a slave to notifications. If something is really urgent – that is, so urgent that it can’t even wait an hour – then the person will call or approach you.
4. You answer all of your emails first thing in the morning
Wait, don’t do emails first thing in the morning? Sacrilege! While emails might seem like the natural 9 AM chore, it’s better to start your day by tackling your most important duties first – that is, before all the other little interruptions of a regular work day can start slowing your momentum. You can skim your emails or even start archiving them, but don’t respond until you’ve done something else that’s more rewarding. Once you’ve gotten through at least one important task, you can start answering some of those emails.
A couple of years ago, The New York Times published an article citing research that people only have a limited amount of willpower every day. The more decisions you have to make (“meet tonight or tomorrow?” “publish or not postpone?” “salad or burger?”), the more tired you feel. Making too many decisions in a day can actually hamper your judgment and self-discipline.