A recent article on the Harvard Business Review looks at a company which has committed to becoming email free and whose productivity and profits are on an upward trajectory as a result.
Reading the article made me reflect on Life Before Email (which, sadly, I am old enough to remember), and my initial thought was goodness how did we ever get anything done?! Then I realised that without email as a means of contact, we actually all talked to each other. The phone (desk not mobile of course) rang frequently and we didn’t always know who was on the other end, ideas were discussed in person not in forwarded attachments, plans were physically arranged, not accepted into an Outlook calendar. But of course, those discussions did require everyone to be in the right place at the right time, and that ringing phone was often downright distracting, so our now long-established email culture is much more efficient and flexible, right?
Well, yes, kind of. For all its obvious benefits, email is a common time stealer, often making us less effective and easily distracted. Whilst it's great to break up your work day into manageable chunks, and vary activities to keep stimulated, productivity suffers with the 'refocusing' required each time we dip out of a task to answer the latest inbox ping. Follow some of ted's top tips to take control of your inbox:
- Set 3 fixed points in the work day to check your email and deal with actions that arise as a result. Let people know this is how you're planning your time and use your out of office if necessary. If it's really urgent, they'll call you! Food for thought …. If one of your fixed points is at the end of the work day – do you really need to check emails again first thing the following day?
- Have a system and keep things in order - delete unnecessaries, archive important but dealt with, create folders to aid storage and searching (topics are more effective than people as folder names).
- Prioritise important 'live' emails requiring attention using an '@action' folder name as this will always stay top of your folder list.
- If the email prompts an action or response that will take you less than 5 minutes: do it now: build time for this into your ‘fixed email' slots. Everything else should be prioritised and planned into your day / week etc.
- Use a messaging system to communicate quickly within your team: make sure everyone signs in daily, syncs it to their calendar and utilises the offline function when they really can't be disturbed. For more great tips to help you and your team work smarter, talk to ted about our ‘Being Highly Effective at Work’ course.