Email – Be Bold And Take Control
The rapid development of technology has a lot to answer for, both good and bad. One such outcome has been the proliferation of emails and our apparent inability to cope with the sheer volume that we receive each day. Well, here’s how to change that and take control of your inbox.
Allocate time each day and stick to it. You may have heard this before, and seen people successfully doing it, but the key here is stick to it! Experiment with what works best for you, but many will find that two slots – one at the start of the day and one at the end – or three – perhaps at lunchtime as well – are sufficient. Send important emails first, then urgent ones, and if there’s time any others. Then shut down your email and ignore it. “But what if something important comes up?” I hear you cry, see later in the piece for dealing with that.
Don’t contribute to the problem. Many companies have an ’email culture’ – you hear people say “It’s what we do around here, we get so many emails!” Yeah, well I bet you send quite a few too! Try this: in one of your email sessions (see above) try dealing with every email with either a phone call or a face-to-face meeting and see if you get a reduction in emails. Time consuming you say? So is emailing! Every time you send one, you’re inviting the recipient to send you one back. Nip it in the bud where possible.
Don’t be a dawn and dusk emailer. I’m guilty of this, as many of us are, now we have email sent to our phones which sleep next to us on the bedside table. First thing in the morning as soon as your eyes open and last thing at night before we close them again, we check our emails. Ask yourself why. How is that helping you? I would advise against this, unless you intend to reply immediately, as you are simply giving yourself something to potentially worry or become stressed about. Ask yourself if it can wait until you get into the office. Also, consider others’ perception of you if you’re sending emails at 6am or 11pm – are you coping? Are you stressed? Are you disorganised? What kind of work-life balance do you have? And when you send an email, do you honestly expect a reply at 11pm or 6am? So why do you think that’s what is expected of you?
Urgent issues shouldn’t be dealt with on email. A senior manager I coached was addicted to his emails and was constantly distracted by checking them to the point where he found it difficult to get anything else done. Why? In case something bad happened and he missed it. The solution? Get people to phone you when something urgent happens. The phone rings, emails don’t. In the safe knowledge that the phone will ring in an emergency, you can get on with other things without having to check your emails.
Don’t ask to be kept in the loop. Easy to say isn’t it? “Keep me posted”, “Copy me in.” Cue the glut of emails which are not directly useful, actionable or relevant. Be bold, trust your colleagues, just ask for a summary at the end or when your input is directly required.
Delete all CC’d emails. Go on, be brave, do it now, delete all emails where you’ve only received them because you were copied in. It’s very liberating! You might want to tell everyone that you ‘delete without reading’ CC’d emails, but this is bound to lead to a reduction in volume without a reduction in key information.
Be bold and take control of your email before it takes control of you!