Email is a wonderful thing, you could even argue that it’s the single biggest factor in the ubiquitousness of digital. It’s been around for eons, well, since 1972 actually, and it was invented by a guy called Ray Tomlinson, an ARPANet contractor. But it can be a little too ubiquitous, downright annoying in fact particularly when you’re trying to run a business or working in an environment where fast communication is important like a sales team or digital marketing team, when you need to talk to each other, partners, and stakeholders all the time.
Here are 10 ideas for escaping the avalanche of email that comes in every day:
- Don’t email colleagues in the same office. This is the most unproductive email activity you can undertake because it always ends up as a conversation, well, about nothing. Get you and your colleagues onto a collaboration platform like Slack or Glip, you’ll see your productivity rocket and your mental health take a real upturn.
- Don’t check your email every five minutes, or five seconds. Don’t you just hate the people that are so busy checking their phones that they really don’t pay attention when you’re talking? one way is to switch off those notifications or even not have email on your phone.
- Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. It’s well known that email and productivity don’t work well together, email sucks you in like a digital whirlpool. If you start answering mail first thing in the morning it’ll be lunchtime before you look up. Wait until you’ve got your important stuff done like the customer calls and checking your social media analytics.
- Use canned responses. Most email clients have a simple to action set of canned responses and they’re pretty easy to use, and most email clients allow you to set your own for when ‘I don’t know you’ or ‘I’ll call you later’ are just a little too abrupt
- Use a really good spam filter. This is a no-brainer. Some email clients are better than others at this with Gmail/Gsuite among the best. I also use a little thing called unrollme that lets you swipe to unsubscribe from those annoying newsletters you subscribed to in a moment of weakness 7 years ago.
- Use a system like GTD to prioritise. This is a great way to be more productive if you like systems, check out GTD the system invented by David Allen here, it’s a fairly simple 5 step process to de-clutter your life that can be applied to any work interaction, particularly things like email.
- Use a collaboration platform. This is the big one for me and has been life-changing. I started to use a platform called Podio about 4 years ago and my email usage has plummeted, so much so that I check my mail a couple of times a day because I think I may have lost connection. Platforms like this include chat, file uploads, project management, shared tasks, and permissions enabling an internal team to stop emailing, an external team to stop emailing and even to stop emailing clients so much; you can show work, keep everyone in the loop plus, and this is the biggest plus, keep everything stored in a central repository that will put an end to “I think I’ve got that email somewhere” hell. You can also try Trello, Asana, Wrike or Basecamp but there literally 100’s
- Switch off notifications. Yes, do this because it’s the catch-all solution that helps you concentrate without being bugged by the awful pinging from your phone
- Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, and Unsubscribe again. Be ruthless in your editing and if you don’t already switch to Gmail/gsuite and use the wonderful tabs – priority/updates/social/promotion to do the culling for you. Gsuite is self-learning and within a matter of days, you will only be getting mail you want to read in your priority tab.
- Keep your emails brief and to the point. If you really have to answer an email don’t invite long boring responses by being boring and long-winded yourself. Don’t be rude but say what you want to do, or what you want to happen, for example: “Thanks for your mail, please upload the monthly sales figures spreadsheet to Podio where we can all see it and comment”