I believe email was one of the great inventions of the twentieth century.
It has made a very positive impact on how we do business today. It has facilitated globalisation and allowed organisations to communicate with large audiences in a much faster way than previous business communication allowed. Organisations are now doing business in markets they never imagined possible, thanks to this wonderful form of electronic communication.
What has gone wrong?
Why are workers now drowning in a sea of email? Does this email explosion have any benefits for us? Or is it just sapping our time and disturbing our focus from the things that add value to our working day?
One of the biggest problems when it comes to email is lack of training. It is assumed that everyone can send and receive and email but there is a lot more to our email programs that can influence how effective or how disorganised we become.
Learning how to use it
Individuals must learn how to organise themselves and learn how to process their email. All too often email is used as a to do list. Workers visit their inbox countless times during the working day to see what other tasks need to be completed. This is not the way to use email. Email is a collection area for work to be done just as is your physical intray, but you don’t keep scanning your intray fifty times during the day.
Training is paramount in order to help individuals manage their email and their workload. Workers need to be shown methods to process their email twice or three times during the day, they need to be shown how to schedule and plan, they need to be introduced to a company culture which doesn’t expect immediate response to email within the organisation and that encourages batching of email.
The effects of a Cluttered Inbox
So why does it matter if we have a cluttered inbox? It matters for a number of reasons, it matters because when workers are overloaded with items to do very often things get missed, or response time to emails becomes unacceptable. It matters because workers are experiencing stress from email overload, if the first thing you see every morning when you come to work is a cluttered inbox sometimes with thousands of emails, this has an effect on your mental approach to the day. If you were to come to work and see 10 emails in your inbox, this would help you to feel more in control of the work that needs to be done. Start with these 4 simple tips and take it from there.
4 simple tips to reduce email overload
Reduce emails received: Unsubscribe to email newsletters you don’t need and tell friends and family to email you at a personal email address.
Batch Process Emails: Set a time in the morning and afternoon to process emails, processing emails means deciding what needs to be done (not actually doing the work) use the 4 D’s Delete, Do, Delegate or Defer or the FAT method: File Act or Trash to process your mail. Any work that needs to be acted on should go into your calendar or task list.
Create a Reference/filing system: Create folders for your emails that must be stored for reference, no emails should sit in your inbox, if there is no task that needs to be actioned then delete it or file it.
Establish a company culture: Distribute a email usage policy outlining effective email usage, or implement an email free Friday to show workers how they can live without email.
Email has become our main link to the external world, it is the fastest and most direct mode of communication that business has ever known, and by using it wisely it can continue to be the boon to business that it was when first introduced to the business world.
You might also be interested in:
9 Ways to manage an insanely large inbox
Ciara Conlon is a Leadership and Productivity Coach, Motivational Speaker and author of Productivity for Dummies and Chaos to Control. Sign up here for a free Goal Setting Masterclass or join her on her Facebook Group LifeDesigners