Strategic use of technology is something everyone should practice. Not just the IT department.
Over the last little while, I’ve been writing about topics that were largely targeted at IT decision-makers. Today, I’m going to be talking about something that could benefit everyone who has a smartphone (or comparable mobile device): Tips for email productivity!
Smart Email Habits
Here’s the thing about email: Reading it and writing it is a HUGE chunk of the office worker’s day. According to McKinsey, up to 28% of worktime is spent on email. That means that, out of the 40-hour workweek, you’ve put in over 11 hours just on email alone. What’s worse is that the average worker is only spending 14% of their worktime communicating with coworkers, and just 39% of their time doing their actual job!
Now, email is inarguably convenient for putting together people who are situated in farflung places. It also increases accountability by permitting a nice big digital “paper” trail to be created. But! If you’re left with less than 30 hours to do work that was originally intended to be done in 40, you have a real problem. There have to be ways to cut into that 11-hour volume. I’m going to share my tips right here!
Stop having a single dedicated time for checking your email.
The volume of email that we are now receiving is simply astronomical, regardless of job titles (at last check, over 144.8 BILLION emails are sent every single day!). And the higher you go up the organizational ladder, the bigger the volume of email you’ll get. All the CEOs and VPs whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet (regardless of company size and function) uniformly claim that they start their days answering at least 200 emails every morning. This is a process that takes them hours.
While I understand the “allure” of having a set routine, the problem with working this way (for emails) is that it really, really tires you out. Even if you don’t feel exhausted, the simple fact of the matter is that fatigue from doing a single (and often monotonous) task will impact you long before you’re addressing the final messages of the email session. Those last guys simply won’t be getting you at your best!
If the nature of your work demands that you block off time to answer emails, then make sure you dedicate much shorter blocks of time and stick to that time frame diligently. Of course, if there’s more flexibility in your job, then might I suggest that you develop the following …
Scan your messages as they arrive.
The beauty of smartphones is that they let you easily monitor and filter your email throughout the day. Now, let me be clear: I am NOT advocating that you answer all your emails from your phone! That is a real time-waster as well; no matter how powerful the touch sensor technology becomes, there’s simply no comparison between a smartphone keyboard and an actual keyboard, after all (smartphone text input is nearly 3 times slower!)
What I am saying is that you can meaningfully flag the important messages from the low priorities. Here are the benefits to doing so:
- Clutter doesn’t accumulate.
o By pre-categorizing messages into priorities, non-priorities, and spam, you’ll be much more efficient at addressing the priorities when you get back to your desktop computer!
- You don’t miss out on important developments during away-from-desk moments.
o Things are always happening around us, even when we’re not at the office or are otherwise removed from our desks. Getting into the habit of monitoring emails while you’re up and about is a good way to plan reprioritization due to new emergencies. In a related vein…
Of course, there still needs to be some sense of decorum to all this. You SHOULDN’T be constantly checking messages while you’re in a meeting or some other important conversation. Also, when you really need to focus, put the smartphone down. And one final piece of advice…
Keep an actual record of how much time you’re spending on email.
All of the above advice can only do so much on their own. What you need to do to round them out is to have an actual record of how much time you’ve spent on email. There are free apps for your browsers and phones that will let you easily track your time. I’m willing to bet that almost all of you will be enormously surprised when you actually go through the exercise – I certainly was (no, I’m not going to tell you how much it was)!
The important point here is that it was a lot. More to the point, it was much more than I’d realized. The worst part was, once I understood how much time was being burned via email, it occurred to me that my email time was taking me away from other projects. That in turn caused a drop in quality of those more critical tasks AND delayed other items (OR it cost me sleep). It’s a pretty ugly little circle, really.
Which is why it’s useful to track your actual email time. You can’t really regulate your time until you get a real idea of how much time you’ve dumped into email. Visibility is key!
That’s it for now…
And that’s it for this installment of useful work tips! Please feel free to share any thoughts, experiences, and tips of your own regarding email practices! In the meantime, if you want to apply the same type of work practice to your IT management, contact us at Cimpl! We’re Canada’s leading IT and telecom expense management provider; we give our customers full visibility over their IT and telecom assets and services so that they can optimally manage their technological resources. We’ll help you implement best practices all around!