Be Productive – Take Control Of Your Email

By Moira Dunne,

When I ask people what prevents them being productive they mostly say, “dealing with all my Email!” We all know that Email is a fantastic communication tool but the stress comes from an overload of Emails combined with the pressure to respond quickly.

So how can we take control of our Email, develop some good Email habits and be more productive?

New Approach to Email

There are many fantastic techniques we can use but like any change we make we need to decide that we want to change. That will help us stick at our new approach until it becomes a habit.

  1. Control When You Work on Email

Working with Email notifications constantly switched on really affects our ability to focus on any other piece of work. People are uncomfortable with the idea of switching notifications off because:

  • we want to be responsive
  • we worry we may miss something important
  • Email notifications are addictive – we actually want to keep checking each new message!

The trick is to find an approach that works for you and your business with the right balance between responding and giving yourself uninterrupted time.

Consider this: If you proactively check your Email for 10 minutes every hour, you are staying in touch but you are giving yourself 50 minutes uninterrupted time to focus on other work.  How much will that increase your productivity throughout the day?

So here are key tips to develop your Email routine:

  • Identify slots in the day when you can switch off your Email notifications.
  • Consider if you can work as a team and rotate the monitoring of group Email accounts
  • Use a timer to limit the time when you check Email
  1. Checking versus Processing

Change the way you manage Email by distinguishing between checking and processing:

  • Checking means a quick scan to stay on top of what has arrived since you last checked.
  • Processing means responding, deleting and filing Emails and will take a longer amount of time.

Processing time should be scheduled into your diary but set a timer so you know when to stop and move on to your next planned task.

By combining quick checks with processing time throughout the day you can stay in touch, work through your responses but also give yourself uninterrupted time to focus on other work. 

  1. Use Smart Email Tools 

All Email programmes have tools that help businesses work smarter. Here are some ideas based on Microsoft Outlook but Lotus Notes and Gmail have equivalent functionality available too.

  1. Email Rules

The Rules functionality can be used to automatically process Emails.  You set conditions that an Email meets and a certain action is taken.

That may sound complex but with a little practice and testing, rules can be mastered quickly. Most rules either: 1) organise messages or 2) notify you of their arrival.

An example rule is “to move messages from a particular newsletter subscription into a Newsletter folder”.  Or you could automatically file messages in a Reference folder that you have been copied on.

Check our article on setting up Rules in MS Outlook for more details Be Productive with Rules In MS Outlook

  1. Use Colour Coding to Prioritise

Emails can be colour coded to help visually sort and prioritise them. Important Emails stand out and don’t get overlooked. Assign colours automatically based on The Sender or the Text in the Subject line. You can also colour code based on the location of your name i.e. in the To, Cc or Bcc field.

  1. Use Quick Parts to Save Time

Quick Parts in Microsoft Outlook allows you reuse a standard block of text such as a project scope statement, a product description or a Company Mission statement.

Save text from an existing Email. To retrieve the saved text in a new Email simply type the first few words of the block and press enter to accept the suggested text.

Be Productive

These tips may not suit everyone’s style or every work place. But be productive, take the ideas and modify them to suit your own environment. Work with your team to make changes collectively.

Measure each change you make to see how much time you save. Best of luck!