ON average, an email will be read within six seconds of it being received. We spend on average three to four hours every day checking email. Four out of five emails are of no use to the reader.
It would be fair to say that many of us work our whole day around our inbox and give this tool priority over all other work. We say we hate it and yet we can’t control our urge to check it.
What is going on? What did we do before email? It seems to me that most of us are just sitting around waiting for our next email alert so that we can have something to do and others expect us to be waiting for their email to read and respond to immediately.
Believe it or not, email can be very easily turned back into your friend; here are 13 ways to do this.
1) First and foremost, limit the number of times you check email to three or less. If you really have to check it every hour then reduce the length of time you spend – get in and get out – quickly. If you can’t possibly do this on your own, change your email settings and preferences so you only receive emails every couple of hours.
2) Now at this point, at least half of you will be twitching; you couldn’t possibly do this because of your job, the industry you are in, your boss and clients expect you to respond instantly. If you truly believe this, ignore suggestion 1 at your peril. The rest of the suggestions will still be of help to you.
3) Delete as you go. Be ruthless.
4) Remove yourself from any subscriptions you don’t read.
5) Define rules. This helps you to filter any low priority work automatically, and allows you to control when you read what content.
6) Touch emails once and make a decision about it. Keep it, ditch it, or do something with it.
7) Don’t use flags and don’t change things you have read to unread. These two actions are an electronic form of multiple handling
8) Reply to questions in full so people don’t have to follow up or ask for more details.
9) Start educating people on when you reply to your email (and do what you say). For example, ‘I am not always at my desk, however I will reply to your email within 24 hours’. This stops people from calling to check if you have received their email and emailing several times to follow up.
10) If your email is difficult to write/explain or it’s taking too long then organise something simple – ring them instead!
11) Learn how to use the functions on your software programs that will help you manage information and work. Functions like rules, calendar and the task bar.
12) Set up a ‘five weeks folder’ that deletes its content automatically after five weeks. Use it as a holding bay for incoming messages you are hesitating to delete, (that email you probably don’t need, but you are also not sure if the guy’s going to call you tomorrow and ask about it). Turn email notifications off and avoid being constantly interrupted as new emails arrive.
Lucky 13, use ‘out of office’ more. Use it for when you are in ‘meetings’ with yourself as well as with other people. It lets people know you are busy and when to expect replies.
Most of us have never been shown how to use our email systems beyond sending an email and filing it; and most of us have forgotten how to file.
We use our inbox to receive new mail, store old mail and a to do list. Start learning how to use this magnificent tool to help you not hinder you.
Email can be your friend.