Email’s original purpose was to allow for nearly instantaneous communication from anywhere in the world. While a letter sent via the post office may take several days to reach the recipient, an email can reach a recipient thousands of miles away in a matter of seconds.
Email was created to save time and money. You can quickly type up an email, send it, and receive a response back in minutes. However, if you are receiving hundreds of emails daily, you know all too well that reading and replying to emails is actually very time consuming.
Scenario: Reading and replying to one e-mail takes you 5 minutes. If you receive 100 emails a day, you can expect to spend 500 minutes or nearly 8 ½ hours just on email. Factor in other tasks, lunch, breaks, and your work day may need to be 16 hours just to get everything done.
If your job revolves around email communication, you have to implement email efficiency measures in order to get anything else done in the day.
Know your email program
Scenario: While you may have several years experience with your current email program, it is likely that you are not entirely familiar with all of the available features. Time is wasted each time you must retrain or go searching for tools. If you are unfamiliar with the program, you will waste time trying to “self-learn.”
Solution: Most email providers offer a short tutorial video on the key features and highlights of their program. Take a few minutes to watch the video and note any features that may save you time or may be useful to your job. You may find that there are features out there that you didn’t even know existed. Email training and tutorial videos may initially take some time, but the time saved overall will be worth it. You will be familiar with features and can efficiently use the email program.
Check at the top of the hour/Set a schedule
Scenario: You can’t resist checking your email every 10 or 15 minutes. You turn away from an important task just to see what is new in your inbox. You may think that continuously checking your email is efficient because you don’t let emails back up. However, this type of system is actually very distracting.
Solution: The biggest mistake most people make is to check their email every couple of minutes. You are taking time away from important tasks and not handling email flow very efficiently. Create a schedule and check your email every 2-3 hours. If you emphasize prompt response time, set up a schedule to check your email at the top of every hour. This will ensure that you can still provide a prompt response within an hour.
Close your e-mail program
Scenario: The little email alert on the bottom of your screen practically screams at you. You may be busy working on another task, yet the second you notice a new email has arrived, you can’t resist clicking. Who can? You turn away from the task at hand, open and read the email, and send a reply. Five minutes has passed and you must now turn back to the other task. Where exactly were you and what were you doing? You now waste another 5 minutes reviewing what you were originally doing and getting back into that mindset.
Solution: Log out of and close your email when not in use. It is too tempting to leave the email alert open. If you are receiving 100 emails a day, they are likely coming in every 4.8 minutes (480 minutes (8 hours) divided by 100 emails). If you turn away from other tasks every 5 minutes, will you ever get anything accomplished?
Scenario: You read the email and can’t decide what to do with it. Should you reply? Should you store it for future reference? Should you just delete it? The email may be a short, rather unnecessary message from another coworker. In fact, according to Tom Pisella, organizations lose $1,800 in productivity each year due to unnecessary emails from co-workers.
Solution: Create a delete or store system. Immediately after reading an email make the decision to delete or store. Then comes the hardest part. Follow through. For some reason, most people cannot bring themselves to press the delete button. They may have a fear of offending the sender or they may fear losing information. If the email is short and doesn’t require storage, delete it. Storing it will just take up valuable space.
Scenario: You’ve just received 10 emails. 5 pertain to prospective job applicants for a position you’re hiring for while the other 5 deal with interoffice topics. You simply store all incoming emails in the same folder. The next day you need to reference the email on a particular job candidate. You now must search through dozens of emails, all on varying topics.
Solution: Create designated folders based on topics. Immediately after reading an email, place it is the appropriate folder for storage. Should you need it later, you can quickly search through only that folder.
Read only once-Make an immediate decision
Scenario: You have 15 new emails. You typically read through each email before replying. For those 15 emails, this will take you an average of 15 minutes. You now start back at the bottom and begin to offer replies. However, after reading 15 emails, how do you remember exactly what the first one was even about? You now spend another minute rereading it. So, in reality, you are using double the time to read and respond.
Solution: Read one email and make an immediate decision. If it can be deleted, delete. If it does not require a response, but does need to be saved for future reference, store it in the designated folder. If the email requires a response, offer the response immediately while the inquiry is still fresh in your mind. Complete that email before moving on to another.
Create bridge emails
Scenario: You have just received an email inquiry that will require you to do some research before issuing a reply. After three days of research, you send a reply. However, you quickly find that the other party has taken their business elsewhere. All of your research was basically for nothing.
Solution: Do not let people remain in suspense, unsure of what is going on. The sender may be unsure if you even received the email. They may also get offended when you don’t even send a reply. Instead, send a bridge email that ensures that you have received the email inquiry and need some additional time. Promise a response time and stick to it.
Scenario: A great deal of time is wasted each day dealing with spam. You may spend that minute reading the email or you may just need to take the time to delete spam messages. According to Return Path, Only 22% of professionals bother to unsubscribe from email they no longer want. Instead, they deal with the unwanted mail on a daily basis. According to Tom Pisello, (ITBusinessEdge.com), organizations lost $1,250 per user in lost productivity each year to time spent reading/deleting spam.
Solution: Delete spam immediately. Better yet, don’t even let spam reach your inbox. Consider installing anti-virus software that includes a spam-blocking tool. Unless it is a business that you would want to receive information on promotions and discounts, be sure to opt-out of mass email promotions when making online purchases. If you did sign up for mass email promotions and no longer wish to receive them, immediately “unsubscribe.” If you did not sign up for the emails and they are spam, hit the “this is spam” button.
Avoid flagging messages
Scenario: You just received an email that you don’t necessarily feel like dealing with at the moment. You “flag” the email, with the intentions of returning to it later. However, after a few days, it blends in with other emails and is quickly forgotten.
Solution: Flagging emails is similar to hanging a “To Do” list on the bulletin board. You may have good intentions, but you don’t necessarily always follow through. Instead of flagging emails, consider creating a space on the calendar for the follow up. A digital calendar will send you a reminder that the email still needs a reply and you may actually get to it. However, the most efficient method is to provide an immediate response. Procrastination usually leads to unanswered emails and upset clients.
Avoid personal emails
Scenario: You use your business email account for personal messages. You spend a great deal of the workday replying to your daughter’s request for a secret family recipe or your sister’s breakup crisis. You may not realize it, but time has quickly passed by and you no longer have enough time to properly complete your work tasks.
Solution: According to AOL/ Beta Research Corporation, more than seven out of 10 employed respondents admitted to checking their personal email at work. Nearly one-third said they did so more than three times a day. It is not fair for your employer to pay you to reply to personal emails. Create two separate accounts, one for personal and one for professional emails. Only check the personal account during breaks or lunch.
Set up an email signature
Scenario: You spend 30 seconds at the end of each email providing your name, business title, and contact information. While this information is necessary, you often get tired of typing the exact same thing.
Solution: Set up an email signature that contains all of your contact information, including your name, business’ name, and your job title. Attach the email signature to every single email you send (personal or professional). If you send 100 emails a day, you are potentially marketing your business to all of the receivers and to the friends they forward the email to. You will save time, appear very professional, and market your business.
Scenario: You read an email and offer a quick response. Thinking that you’ve accomplished one email in a matter of 3 minutes, you move on to another task. However, 10 minutes later, you find yourself replying to the same person because you did not fully answer their question or didn’t provide adequate information.
Solution: Always proofread your message for content. Take the time to answer each and every question to prevent future, unnecessary emails. This is also a chance to check for possible spelling or grammar errors that may make you appear unprofessional.
Astounding Email Statistics:
Spam will cost a total of $130 billion worldwide, of which $42 billion is in the U.S. alone. This includes lost productivity and time. It costs approximately $0.04 to delete each spam message. (Ferris Research)
While users mostly see spam as an annoyance, for corporations it is a considerable expense. According to The Radicati Group, Inc., a typical 1,000-user organization can spend upwards of $3.0 million a year to fight and manage spam.
A typical business user sends and receives over 600 emails per week (Ferris Research).
In 2010, the typical corporate user sent and received about 110 messages daily. Roughly 18% of emails received was spam, comprising both actual spam and “graymail” (i.e. unwanted newsletters, alerts, etc.). (The Radicati Group, Inc.)
247 billion messages are sent per day. This means more than 2.8 million emails are sent every second. Around 80% of these messages are spam or viruses (The Radicati Group, Inc.)
59% of employed American adults check their e-mail during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of the 59%, more than half (55%) check their work e-mails at least once a day, while about 28% check their e-mails multiple times throughout the day (Xobni and Harris Interactive).
Mike Nelson says
Can I also point you to my app, Speaking Email, which lets you check your email while doing other things by reading out the email content (minus the clutter) and giving you voice commands to manage your mail. I hope you will consider including this in any updated article you may write.
Ernest J Curcio says
I was told in internet ‘tips’, about making my email account more efficient to: disc clean, defrag, clear caches and do a clean boot (the last one stumps me, the others I have at least heard of ). Where do I go on my computer to find these things to do (I tried querying these items and nothing comes up in my different setting sections). Please respond to me at my listed email directly not here because I don’t check it.