Email, stress & productivity
Learning how to manage your email effectively, can make a huge difference to your productivity, your ability to managing multiple tasks and the level of stress in your life. I’ve been through periods of being extremely busy and therefore pretty stressed out.
Over time I’ve implemented a few simple things to reduce the pressure and help me make better use of my time.
1. Decide when you’ll check
This is a very tricky one and something I still struggle with. As a company we want to be working at our best, focused on a single tasks and able to give our customers exactly what they need without being distracted. It might only take a few minutes to reply to an incoming email, but it could take much longer to get back into the right mindset to carry on with the task in hand.
The specific challenge with a client facing role (such as my own) is that it really revolves around sending and replying to email, but even in this I try to limit how often I check it.
We use Gmail so I can easily close the browser tab and not be distracted by popups, I’ll try to do this when I am doing a specific tasks that requires my attention.
2. Inbox zero
Much has been said about this subject but I love the approach that Gmail affords in this respect.
Moving from Outlook where I left literally hundreds of messages in my inbox giving a feeling of being out of control, to Gmail where only having messages in the inbox that I need to action has been a huge leap forward.
I admit that it is only a psychological benefit, but you cannot underestimate what a difference it makes feeling like you are in control and there is an end in sight.
Mailbox takes this concept one step further allowing you to hide messages for a specified period. Available on the iPhone and iPad, it allows you to prioritise messages and deal with them at a more appropriate time.
For example, I tend to do more research type activity on a Friday morning, so if someone sends me a link to an article I’ll hide the message until the next Friday. It’ll pop back into my inbox at 7am and remind me that it needs to be actioned.
This little app means you can reduce your inbox to zero by the end of the working day and allow you to go home knowing that everything is under control.
3. Turn off emails
Like many of us, I have a young family that require my time but time is not the only factor in the equation, attention is more important.
There is little point in being around if your attention is on other things, whether that be answering an email or simply distracted by thinking about work. I have found through the years that the smallest email request or comment can be a distraction for hours.
So one of the biggest changes I made to my life (and have mostly been able to continue with) is to turn my main email account off when I arrive home. I turn it off on my phone and I try not to even open my laptop. I don’t generally check email in evenings or weekends.
There are occasional exceptions to this and we do have a support address that is monitored more closely, but mostly I stick to it and I think my life is more balanced because of it.
So there it is, 3 tips for managing your email. Whether you have a client facing job or not I do suggest you come up with a means to manage this process. If you do it right it should help you to be less stressed, more focused, more productive... and lets hope more happy.