Last time I went over email clients and my preferences. Sticking to that trend, this week I’m going to talk about my email habits. Reducing clutter, minimizing time spent on email, and communication tips to increase productivity. This is how I spend less time on email and more on my work.
Kill The Clutter
As I’ve said before: clutter ruins my focus. With so many things to address or catch my eye, I lose track of what I’m doing. I do the following to reduce the number of emails in my inbox:
Unsubscribe — By law, email providers must attach a link to unsubscribe. Scroll to the bottom, click that link, and that’s one less email every week. You don’t need to know every time someone posts on LinkedIn or Slack adds a feature. Those emails add up and waste your time. UnRollMe has a nice tool that speeds up this process.
Use Folders — Your inbox can turn into a collection of emails too important to delete. I’ve been there. The list shoots off the end of the screen and everything is difficult to find. Put those emails into folders. Nothing complicated. Three basic folders will work: Conversations, Information, and Documents will cover everything.
Set up an Autoresponder — Sometimes inbound email gets out of hand. When this happens, I use an autoresponder. That way, the person emailing me still gets a response, but I don’t have to stop to send it. My message looks like this:
Due to a high workload, I’m only checking my email twice per day. Once at 12 PM EST and again at 4 PM EST. I’ll be happy to get back to you then.
If you urgently need me, call me at (910) 555-5555.
This lets me focus on my work instead of maintaining a stream of emails all day. It also immediately addresses the person and gives them an option if they actually need me. MailChimp has a nice autoresponder that I use.
Updates and old emails waste space in your inbox, but the worst is email tag. You respond immediately, they know you’re there, they reply, and you’re stuck in a loop. I address this problem by:
Delaying Email Delivery — Most email clients do this out of the box. Delay your email by fifteen minutes to address anything else, then mute your email client. This way, you’re not immediately available. You’re also not compelled to reply because you’ve seen their response.
Checking Email At Set Times — I try to check my email twice per day. Not only are frequent checks distracting, they waste time. Focus on your actual work. If someone needs to discuss a topic in depth, you should get them in a chat or on the phone. This wastes a lot less time and causes less clutter.
Responding Effectively — Email is a very efficient medium for communication. Utilizing the benefits of email and keeping a clear focus reduces clutter. I may phrase an email like so:
I got the logo, it looks nice, but I need to know which font that is.
Could you send some more pictures of your storefront? An angle that shows the sign better would be great.
Also, I’ve attached some style tiles, let me know what you think.
Here, I address three topics at once and made each request very clear. This way Bill and I can cover enough issues for three conversations in one email. Also, what I need from Bill is direct and not left to interpretation or further inquiry. That way I can get the information I need and manage less email.
Some of these tips came from Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work Week. It is a great read, I really recommend it.
For more tips like this, I also recommend signing up for my newsletter. I send out actionable advice like this every week to my subscribers.