Productivity Hacks: 5 Tips for Clearing the Email Hurdle

Believe it or not, there can be enough hours in the day – if you know how to use them wisely. Successful time management is about knowing yourself and your work style, setting priorities, and having the discipline to stick by them no matter what.

Too often, time management boils down to unique personal habits and situations, but some things apply to everyone – especially emails. It can seem as though you reply to five messages, only to turn around and find 25 more piled up in your inbox. At times it’s daunting to get through all of these messages on top of everything else you have to do, but it’s important not to view email as a punishment.

Here are five habits I’ve picked up over the years that help me get through my inbox, without letting the correspondence pile up.

  1. I remove myself from one email list every day. Whether it’s retail promotions, newly launched companies, policy newsletters or book clubs, we’ve all found ourselves on more email lists than we can possibly manage. Take the time to “unsubscribe” from these lists – just one a day can make a big difference to your email traffic.
  2. When replying to emails, I always start with the most recent. These probably need more of my attention and a more thoughtful response than older, more deletable emails. I try to address these messages before they get buried in my inbox.
  3. I have a simple rule: always keep my inbox below 20 emails at any one time, and I reward myself when I succeed. Every time I get below 20 emails in my inbox, I treat myself.
  4. I dictate my emails and responses instead of typing or working on a smartphone touch screen. Voice recognition software continues to improve, making this option more feasible than it once was. Speaking slowly and clearly allows for pain-free, quick responses to most emails, without the embarrassment of typos.
  5. I comment on issues only where I know I can add value. Very often, group emails do not require my input or response; I leave that up to the experts on the particular case. But I always acknowledge personal emails. This gives me more time to answer direct questions and address issues that need my attention.

Setting realistic expectations and goals for yourself can make it a lot easier to stay on top of your messages, without letting them eat away at the valuable time you need for other tasks. Email doesn’t have to take up all your time in the office – it’s just a matter of making small changes to manage your time well, then sticking with them.

Have a great day!

Brian Torchin