I’ve had discussions on 3 different occasions in the last 2 weeks on email management so, I thought I’d follow up on some extra ideas and thoughts from my last email management post.
First, You need to assess what type of person you are, how you use your email and what your email load is.
If you know unread email bothers your brain, then you will need a different tactic to my core strategy.
The use of email is changing. Especially in younger companies, and people, and in Asia. Here chat, slack, persistent chats are becoming more common for communication and email is more formal.
In US and Europe, outside of tech, letters remain more formal (attached as pdf often) and email is the core communication medium.
You can see the move to persistent chat in Gen Z use of chat, the China use of Wechat, and the strong use in tech and start-up world of Slack and other persistent chat tools.
With that in mind, I suggest a few strategies. One is using a triage system that uses filters, deletes and flags to get to a zero inbox. You need to set up good filters and flags.
Personally, I think obtaining a zero inbox is too demanding if you have a heavy email load, but some need it for good brain feeling.
Under this strategy, I also suggest using 2 or 3 email addresses. One for newsletters, sign-ups, non-urgent, non-vital matters. One for work exclusive matters and a third for personal email. You need a certain level of organised personality for this (it’s not me!) and you will need mail check times for the various addresses. Eg 1x week for non-vital email, 1 hour for personal etc.
As I mentioned previously having a set time to review email (not first thing in the morning), I think is an efficient practice.
This is also because constant email alerts interrupts “flow” - the concentration / creative work flow which is efficient writing / reading / thinking time.
As I described earlier, I advocate reading headlines, flagging emails which need a thoughtful reply, dealing with emails which need only 30 seconds, and then ignoring all others - even the time spent deleting emails is a waste of time under this method.
My latest thinking is:
-Make your headline informative
-Have an interesting link in your email signature
-Put an interesting link in your out-of-office, plus let them know if emails will not be read.
-Write “No reply required” if no reply is required to your email
Newspaper have dedicated roles for headliners. A short succinct one-line headline of what your email is about saves everyone time. Further, it concentrates your mind on what the focus of email is about.
Say something interesting in your email signature. Ideally a link to a piece of work or thought you want to engage people with. It’s a “free” piece of promotion if used carefully (I tend to go a bit overboard, but a single link or phrase works well). Update it from time to time. You can link to a corporate item or a personal thought or any insightful matter.
Same goes for the “out of office” email. But here you should also state, if you are taking a proper break and not reading email – in which case ask them to re-send the email if important, when you are back in the office. Then you can safely ignore most emails sent when away.
I’ve also started to write “No reply required” if no reply is required to my email. Many emails are vague as to if a reply is required. Time spent thinking about if a reply is needed is a waste. Further, if a reply is not needed then receiving an email back is also a waste of both your time and their time. This is a small addition, which has incrementally cut down some of my incoming email.
Any other ideas let me know!
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